The National Athletic Trainers Association was in St. Louis for its annual convention. A panel, including St. Louis Rams player Rodger Saffold, discussed sudden death in college football players.
Douglas Casa explained the death of Minnesota Vikings player Korey Stringer on August 1, 2001.
“Unfortunately,” he said. “They didn’t take proper precautions to protect the athletes that day and they did not properly treat him after the heat stroke.”
Stringer was only 26, and he had just reported for only Day 2 of training camp. As president of the Korey Stringer Institute, Casa said he found that 21 college football players died between 2000 and 2011.
“Nobody has died playing football, practicing or playing games at the Division I level,” he pointed out. “So, we need to think about why we are pushing them to the point of dying in these conditioning sessions.”
Rams left tackle Rodger Saffold said he had to share his near miss with the National Athletic Trainers Association at the America’s Center. He remembered having a small energy drink on his way to a conditioning workout when he played for Indiana University.
“Actually, ended up having my heart racing,” he laughed, nervously. “To the point where I couldn’t get it to stop.”
“Saffold says his school took his brush with death seriously, and then took immediate action.”
“Ever since then,” Saffold explained. “I’ve seen defibrillators in the athletic training rooms and it’s been real beneficial to me and a bunch of the other players.”
And that is why a task force of the NATA and the Korey Stringer Institute recommended a certified trainer always be present to pull the plug on workouts, if necessary.
“The athletic mentality of if a little is good,” said association president James Thornton. “A lot must be better, sometimes gets the best of us. So, bad things can happen.”
What is next for the task force? High-schools that have lost several football players, mostly during conditioning workouts, over the past five years.
“We have to take more control, if we are going to protect our kids during these times,” Casa warned.
The task force recommended trainers and coaches make sure athletes are properly hydrated, and that they look for symptoms of even minor medical conditions. The full list of task-force recommendations is at nata.org.
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