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On January 22, 2009, David Stinson, a Kentucky high school football coach, was charged with reckless homicide after a player collapsed on the field during practice and later died of complications from heat stroke. On August 20, 2008, Max Gilpin, a 15 year-old member of the Pleasure Ridge Park high school football team collapsed on the practice field and was pronounced dead three days later. The coroner’s report shows that his body temperature was at 107 degrees Fahrenheit at the time he passed out.
The charge of reckless homicide means that grand jurors didn’t think Coach Stinson acted intentionally or maliciously, but that he “fail[ed] to perceive a substantial and unjustifiable risk that the result w[ould] occur.” Reports say that Coach Stinson did not allow the players to take water breaks during this practice. If that is the case, it may be that the charge of reckless homicide is warranted, but it also seems there is a point to be made regarding a player’s responsibility to inform coaches if he is feeling unwell. Is this a case of water being denied or merely of a coach pushing his players and depending on them to know when to take a break?
If there were ever a sports issue that warranted some interference by lawmakers it would seem that standards for giving high school athletes water breaks would be one of them, especially considering the fact that there have been 114 heat-related deaths in football over the past fifty years. Perhaps instead of worrying about the integrity of baseball records, Congress should take a look at an issue that has an immediate impact on the health of our young athletes and on the ability of coaches to run practices effectively and safely.
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