Key Florida lawmaker wants student-athletes safer in school sports

PreK-12 Innovation chairman Rep. Ralph Massullo expects legislation requiring some ‘simple things.’
Pre-season baseball practice at Wesley Chapel High School. Lawmakers want to ensure student-athletes remain safe in the Florida heat as they participate in high school sports. DIRK SHADD  |  Times
Pre-season baseball practice at Wesley Chapel High School. Lawmakers want to ensure student-athletes remain safe in the Florida heat as they participate in high school sports. DIRK SHADD | Times
Published October 22
Updated October 22

The death of a Hillsborough County teen who collapsed during summer football conditioning drills has drawn heightened attention to the health needs of Florida’s high school student-athletes.

And after a September discussion with FHSAA officials revealed that many interventions — such as coach CPR training — are not required, a key state lawmaker is focusing on possible legislation to better protect teens on the field.

“During our first meeting, we found a lot of these things are suggestions and not requirements,” said Rep. Ralph Massullo, who chairs the House PreK-12 Innovation subcommittee. “A lot of times that doesn’t work.”

Massullo has scheduled another workshop on the subject for his panel’s next session on Oct. 23. He said his goal is to move ahead with recommendations to make sure students are safe, and that the adults around them are prepared to respond to illnesses and injuries that occur during training and games.

“Whether that’s going to require legislation or just rules, we’re not sure yet,” he said.

The possible responses are many, he said. They include ideas such as mandating schools have immersion tubs or perhaps even buckets of ice and cooling blankets available for students who overheat. Another would have schools keep defibrillators at their outdoor stadiums.

“Being in the school doesn’t make them readily available if someone has a heart attack on a field,” Massullo observed.

A conservative Republican who generally supports smaller government, Massullo said he envisions advancing “simple things that can be easily implemented” yet can make a difference in saving lives.

He has not yet presented any bills, and the Senate so far has not approached the topic. His committee meeting will include a conversation with Dr. Kris D. Stowers, a Tallahassee sports medicine specialist.

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