One trial H.S. football fans should follow
Around a month ago, we ran a story about the National Athletic Trainers Association advising high school football coaches to limit two-a-day practices in an effort to reduce the risk of heat injuries among high school athletes.
Well, the hot-button issue of heat-related illness is back in the news again (assuming it ever really left). And this story is one high school football parents, coaches and fans should follow.
Starting Monday, former Pleasure Ridge (Ky.) High School football coach Jason Stinson will become the first football coach to go to trial for the heat-related death of high school football player. In August 2008, sophomore offensive lineman Max Gilpin collapsed during a series of sprints at the end of a hot day of practice. He died three days later.
Why should you follow this trial? Well, for a number of reasons. In a nutshell, its verdict could have far-reaching implications on high school players and coaches around the country. Ripples that could even reach York and Adams Counties.
SI.com's Michael McCann wrote a great piece today that breaks down the trial, including the nitty gritty details, circumstances and question marks surrounding Gilpin's death. I won't go into all those here, but check out the story if you have a chance.
Basically, the issue at stake is this: Should a high school coach be held punishable by law if a player dies due to unreasonable or excessive practice conditions?
If the answer is yes, and Stinson is found guilty, a few ripple effects would be obvious. First, many coaches and trainers would go to greater means to protect their athletes. From talking to a few YAIAA coaches, most of those measures are already in place in York and Adams Counties, including weighing players before/after practice, encouraging frequent water breaks, and keeping players out of the hottest hours of the day.
Those precautions could increase even more, if not here, than other parts of the country. That seems like an obvious positive, but I'll play Devil's advocate. Let's say football practices become too light, and players aren't properly conditioned for that first football game. It's still summer for that first game. It's still hot. Isn't that putting these kids in danger, too? It's something to ponder.
McCann goes a step further, saying players could be subjected to more rigorous fitness testing just to be cleared to play sports. He also speculates the coaching profession in general could become less appealing.
Of course, should a conviction occur -- Which, from reading about the case, is far from a certainty. Remember, innocent until proven guilty. -- it's hard to say if these scenarios would actually play out locally. As I mentioned, it seems like football coaches in the area are doing plenty to ensure their players are safe.
That said, it's hard to imagine a guilty verdict in this case wouldn't prompt some coaches -- if not in York County, than certainly in other parts of the state and the country -- to be more cautious.