A Kentucky high school football coach has been indicted by a grand jury for the death of a sophomore player at Louisville’s Pleasure Ridge Park High School. It was his first year as head coach.
The prosecutor made stated that the grand jury found that the coach should have realized a player could collapse from heat stroke in the broiling weather during practice, in announcing reckless homicide charges in a youth’s death on Aug. 20, 2008.
The heat index, used to measure how hot it feels based on temperature and humidity, reached 94 degrees during the Aug. 20 practice. The player’s temperature reached 107 degrees at the hospital, authorities said. He died three days later. No autopsy was performed, but the coroner’s office said it appeared the student died of complications from heat stroke.
From 1960 through 2007, there were 114 heat stroke cases in all levels of football that resulted in death, according to a report compiled by Dr. Frederick Mueller at the University of North Carolina for the American Football Coaches Association in February 2008. Of those, 16 deaths were attributed to heat stroke from 2003 to 2007, with both cases from 2007 involving a high school player.
Heat exposure deaths happen occasionally in football from the sandlot to the pros, the most famous example being Minnesota Vikings offensive lineman Korey Stringer in 2001. Lawsuits have been filed in many of those cases, but no evidence can be found that a coach has ever been charged in the deaths.
An assistant coach, Deacon, called 911 and told a dispatcher that Gilpin was semiconscious and that his father was nearby, according to a transcript of the call.
“He’s just overheated … and we’ve got water on him … he’s responsive and he’s got a big rapid pulse but …” Deacon said.
In the background, someone is urging the player: “Come on get them eyes open … keep them eyes open … there you go … get them eyes all the way up … get them eyes open … there you go.”
The reckless homicide charge means grand jurors didn’t find that Stinson’s actions were intentional or malicious, but that “a reasonable man should have realized something like this could have occurred.”
Stinson surrendered yesterday at his arraignment and was released by the judge without bond at the courthouse.
Gilpin’s parents sued Stinson and five assistant coaches in state court accusing them of negligence and “reckless disregard.” The five assistants were not charged in the indictment, and Stengel said they didn’t commit a crime.
The American College of Sports Medicine has guidelines to help coaches, parents and players tackle the heat safely.
- Ease into Play: It takes the body up to two weeks of activity in hot weather to undergo the physiological changes needed to exercise safely.
- Avoid Sideline Supplements: Many performance enhancing pills can deplete the body of water, experts say, especially ephedra.
- Educate Athletes: Players should be taught about the dangers of heat stroke and encourage them to speak up. Signs of heat stroke include lack of concentration, confusion, and fatigue.
Though Colorado lost a high school football player in 2006, that student suffered from a heart condition which resulted in his death. No reported Colorado deaths have occurred as a result of heat stroke on high school football teams.