FHSAA says athlete safety study misses mark

FORT MYERS, Fla. A ranking that pegs Florida as 23rd in the country for high school athlete safety doesn’t take into account changes for this year, a state athletic association official says.

The Florida High School Athletic Association has implemented a requirement for schools to have a plan in place for emergency situations that occur during sports activities, said Justin Harrison, the FHSAA associate director for social services.

That requirement takes effect this year.

The ranking was created by the Korey Stringer Institute at the University of Connecticut, a sports safety research and advocacy organization sponsored by the National Football League.

“Ranking us against other states I would not say is the important thing in this,” Harrison said. “We just want to make sure our student-athletes are provided the safest environment that we can potentially provide them.”

The study found Florida schools only met a third of what it listed as recommended guidelines when it came to heat stroke.

FHSAA policy specifically addresses heat stroke and best practices for minimizing risk to students.

A Riverdale high school student died in July after suffering from heat stroke at a June practice. The Lee County school district said all FHSAA guidelines were being followed.

FHSAA does not require schools to follow their policy during summer months, Harrison said.

The National Federation of State High School Associations is also criticizing the rankings.

“Unfortunately, the Korey Stringer Institute has proclaimed itself as judge and jury of heat-illness prevention and other safety issues by ranking the 51 NFHS-member state high school associations – these very associations that have been promoting risk-minimization precautions in their schools’ athletic programs for many more years than the seven-year existence of the (Korey Stringer Institute),” a spokesperson for the national organization wrote.

The full Stringer Institute study and rankings can be accessed here.

See the FHSAA athlete safety policies on pages 104 through 109 of the bylaws below:

Reporter:Lauren Sweeney