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But, let's get real. It's highly unlikely that schools forced to lay off teachers and slash budgets during the economic downturn are going to suddenly come up with tens of thousands of dollars to hire athletic trainers.
The idea came up in Georgia a few years ago, only to get shot down in the Legislature.
"The education lobby was able to convince them that not every school can afford to do that," said Ralph Swearngin, executive director of the Georgia High School Association. "The situation has gotten worse now because of all the furloughs and layoffs and things of that sort. It would be very difficult to pass any kind of requirement that you had to have an athletic trainer, even though it's vitally important."
OK, let's look at some steps that would help right away and not necessarily break the bank:
Know which athletes have the sickle cell trait, which makes them more susceptible to heat-related problems. Everyone is tested at birth for the blood abnormality, but few people keep up with the results or know the significance of having it. Rosenbaum advocates additional testing, if necessary, before a kid is allowed to play high school sports.
Come up with a minimum national standard that all schools must adhere to for dealing with heat issues, instead of the hodgepodge of rules that differ from state to state, district to district. Every coach should be trained in first aid. Every school system should have an emergency plan to deal with a kid in distress.
At Georgia, Courson puts his staff through a training session each year using a 200-pound dummy. They must be able to load it into a cart and quickly get it to a pool that is kept at 50 degrees. That sort of treatment is absolutely vital when dealing with heatstroke -- and it doesn't have to be high-tech.
At the high school where Courson's son plays football, they use a horse trough filled with water and keep bags of ice nearby in case someone collapses.
"You've got to put them in ice up to neck level to cool them down," Courson said. "Cool first, then transport. If you wait until you get to the hospital, 20, 25, even 30 minutes may have transpired. Then, it may be too late to do anything."
It's not too late to prevent another Forrest Jones.
"I hope no parent," said his heartbroken father, "ever has to go through this again."
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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