INDIANAPOLIS — State Rep. Ron Bacon is wrapping up the third leg of his sports-related legislative bill triad. The Republican from Chandler is pushing a bill through the Indiana General Assembly that would require head coaches and assistant coaches of interscholastic or intramural sports to complete an education course on heat-related medical issues that could arise from a student athlete’s training.
“This is the number one killer of student athletes in the United States — heat exhaustion,” Bacon said. “So that is the main reason we want to get this through. Concussion and injury doesn’t really cause death at that immediate onset. It causes problems later.”
He previously introduced bills requiring that athletes be educated about concussions and sudden cardiac arrest, issues that were legislated into law.
His House Bill 1024, concerning heat preparedness training, passed through the Indiana House 91-0. The bill was heard this week by the Senate Committee on Education and Career Development, which is expected to vote on the proposal next week. If approved, it would go to the full Senate.
“With this legislation, Indiana will join a list of states that have encompassed the head, heart and heat triad in protecting athletes,” said Timothy Drudge, athletic trainer and president-elect of the 1,900-member Indiana Athletic Trainers Association.
Research has shown, he said, that when coaches know how to respond to health problems related to exertion in the heat, there’s a 100 percent survival rate for athletes.
“This bill will make coaches know what to do ... and how to prepare,” Drudge said.
Bacon was a volunteer assistant coach for 24 years for the Boonville High School girls softball team. The team included his two daughters.
He’s also a respiratory therapist. Part of his role was to take care of softball team members and get them to an athletic trainer if they experienced illness.
“I knew what to watch for. .... I had some kids with health care issues, more with asthma and breathing,” he said. “Heat brings that on pretty quickly, especially down in southern Indiana where it’s so humid.” In talking with trainers over the years, Bacon found that two issues, besides heat-related problems, cropped up: head injuries and sudden cardiac arrest.
Last year, the Korey Stringer Institute, which researches sudden death among athletes, ranked Indiana 28th in states with inclusive sports safety policies. The ranking did not break down the head, heart and heat practices but looked at combined policies.
Most of the top 15 states, including Hawaii, New Jersey and Illinois, in the ranking required schools to have a policy addressing sport practices during hot weather.
In 2014, Bacon authored a bill that required the Indiana Department of Education to issue guidelines to schools to educate coaches, athletes and parents about sudden cardiac arrest. The bill was signed into law in March 2014.
In 2011, he sponsored a bill, which also became law, requiring the Department of Education to provide similar guidelines about concussions and head injuries.
Bacon previously attempted to introduce legislation concerning heat preparedness.
In 2015, more than 13 high school football players in the United States died in one season, Bacon has said. Half of those players died from cardiac conditions or heat stroke.
One of the players was from Pike High School in Indianapolis. The 14-year-old died after practicing in high temperatures and humidity.