Editor’s Note: The NFHS was asked to share the “opposing view” regarding Sports Safety in the Opinions section of the September 5 issue of USA Today – both online and print. Karissa Niehoff, NFHS executive director, shared the following in the space allowed by the publication.
The fact that any high school student-athlete dies from heat stroke, cardiac arrest or any other factor is a tragic situation, but this does not happen because the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) and its 51-member state high school associations are insensitive to the matter and not doing a proper job of managing risk.
Because of the guidance given by these associations to their member high schools, the number of high school athletes who have sustained serious or fatal injuries has dropped dramatically. In a five-year period from 2008 to 2012, there were 22 heat-related deaths in high school football. In the last five years (2013- 2017), there were eight heat-related deaths.
Do we wish that number was zero? Absolutely, although it is probably not realistic with 1.1 million students playing football. However, that remains the goal as the 51 state associations and 19,500 schools have never been more committed to the health and safety of the almost eight million participants in high school sports.
Earlier this year, the NFHS provided more than 400 AEDs to schools and state associations through a grant from the NFHS Foundation with a goal of having one AED in every high school in the United States. Three years ago, the NFHS provided enough “Anyone Can Save a Life” Emergency Action Plan toolkits for distribution to every school in the country.
You won’t hear about these initiatives in the KSI report, as well as the online education courses Heat Illness Prevention, Sudden Cardiac Arrest and Concussion in Sports through the NFHS Learning Center (www.NFHSLearn.com) that more than 2.2 million individuals have taken.
The claim that every death could be avoided by following KSI’s suggestions is foolish, but the mission of state associations and member high schools to provide a risk-free environment for sports continues to burn stronger every day.
Karissa Niehoff, EdD, is the executive director of the NFHS.