In the wake of several high profile deaths of high school student-athletes, California recently enacted two new laws aimed at improving school responses to heart and heat-related emergencies involving students.
Assembly Bill (AB) 2009
Given that sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) is a leading cause of death among young athletes, AB 2009 requires school districts and charter schools that offer interscholastic athletics to have written, posted emergency action plans in place and to acquire at least one automated external defibrillator (AED) for each school.
Between 2009 and 2011, 42 young athletes died in California as a result of their participation in athletics. Nineteen of those deaths were attributed to SCA. Studies cited by the American Heart Association have shown that, if defibrillated within the first minute of collapse, an SCA victim's chances of survival are close to 90%, decreasing by 7% to 10% for each additional minute that passes. After 10 minutes, the rate of survival among adults is less than 5%.
Virtually every coach in California is already trained in the use of AEDs, but currently only 75% to 80% of high schools have an AED, many of which are not available to athletic personnel in the afternoon. Beginning on July 1, 2019
, school districts and charter schools will need to ensure that each school in the district has at least one AED, and are encouraged to make the devices available to render emergency care or treatment to pupils, spectators, or other attendees within the recommended three to five minutes. Again, while schools are encouraged in this regard, they are required
to ensure that AEDs are available to trainers and coaches at on-campus athletic events and during athletic instruction.
AB 2009 requires schools to ensure that their AEDs are maintained and regularly tested according to operation and maintenance guidelines set forth by the manufacturer, the American Heart Association, Red Cross, and the FDA. AB 2009 also further extends the general exception from civil liability afforded to those who reasonably attempt to render aid by using an AED, to school districts, charter schools and their employees.
Assembly Bill 2800
According to the Centers for Disease Control, heat illness during athletic practice or competition is also a medical risk and cause of death for student-athletes. This health risk is higher for student athletes participating in high-intensity and long-duration or repeated same-day sports practices during the summer months. It has been reported that between 1995 and 2014, 42 high school football players died of exertional heat stroke nationwide, with two California students passing away from heat illness last year alone.
Assembly Bill 2800 adds heat illness awareness to the California High School Coaching Education and Training Program. Existing law declares the Legislature's intent that interscholastic athletic coaches should receive training on a number of topics, including coaching philosophies, sports psychology and physiology, CPR and first aid certification, and the signs, symptoms, and appropriate response to concussions. Prior to AB 2800, training in the areas of heat illness and heat stroke was not required.
AB 2800 adds a basic understanding of the signs and symptoms of, and appropriate responses to, heat illness, to the High School Coaching Education and Training Program. Separate from AB 2800, for those secondary schools which are members of the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF), CIF bylaws require training for any coach who is required to be fingerprinted and/or is approved by their local school board or board of directors to have contact with students, and such CIF training certification requirements include training related to concussions, SCA, and heat acclimatization. AB 2800's heat illness training requirements may be fulfilled through, including but not limited to, CIF coach training certification, or by entities offering free, online, or other types of training courses.
School districts and charter schools that offer athletic programs must obtain at least one AED, and create or update a written emergency action plan which describes procedures to be followed in the event of medical emergencies related to athletic activities or events. The written plan should be posted, at a minimum, at all venues and be easily accessible to anyone involved in carrying out the plan. In addition, school districts and charter schools should review existing policies and procedures regarding training requirements for athletic coaches to ensure that coaches are appropriately trained on identifying and responding to symptoms of heat illness.
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