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[UPDATE] Taking Athletes Out of the Heat

By: Eyewitness News Email
By: Eyewitness News Email

If passed, Florida will be the first Southern state to pass such safety protections

Tallahassee, Florida - October 4, 2011 - 6 p.m.

The heat-related death of a 16-year-old football player could mean big changes for school athletes in Florida. The legisture is now drafting guidelines that, if passed, all high school athletes will have to follow.

State senator Bill Montford says 13 deaths have occurred nationwide this year alone. Two of those were in Florida. So Sen. Montford is doing what he can to prevent student athletes from dying in the heat.

D.J. Searcy's mom holds a picture of her son on what would have been his 17th birthday. He died from a heat-related illness back in August while attending a football camp in North Florida.

"My son was a great son and he loved helping people," says Michelle Searcy.

Now, Michelle Searcy plans to use her loss to save others by taking part in a movement that could affect thousands of high school athletes.

"I've filed a bill that will require the Florida High School Association to come up with rules and guidelines to be used statewide," says Sen. Bill Montford, (D) Tallahassee.

Florida is said to be the first state in the south to draft legislation with new guidelines that include limiting the amount of equipment and the time it's worn during practice and requiring coaches to have a tub of ice for athletes to sit in which drastically increases the chance of survival if they start to overheat.

"I can't even explain how I feel about that, my heart is open to the Florida State Legislature for what they're doing and trying to do," says D.J.'s dad Carrolton Searcy.

The Searcys say they hope the guidelines will help save the lives of young athletes like their son.

D.J.'s mom says she hopes their home state of Georgia will follow Florida's lead when it comes to preventing heat-related deaths among young athletes.

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Tallahassee, Florida - October 4, 2011 - Noon -

The death of a Georgia high school football star is causing some to question Florida's lack of guidelines to prevent heat-related deaths. Now, a Florida senator is leading the way in preventing more of these types of tragedies.

Today would have marked DJ Searcy's 17th birthday. Eyewitness News spoke with the parents of the Georgia high school football player. They say Florida needs to have stricter guidelines to prevent heat-related tragedies.

Searcy died of a heat related incident on August 2nd while attending a North Florida football camp. In the past year alone, 13 deaths have occurred nation-wide, including two in Florida. Michelle Searcy, DJ's mother, shared her concerns with Senator Bill Montford and together they want to lead Florida in sponsoring life-saving legislation.

This will make Florida the first state in the South to pass this type of legislation. It will not only affect high school football players, but all athletes, including cheerleaders and marching band members.
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SENATOR MONTFORD SPONSORS LEGISLATION TO PREVENT HEAT-RELATED STUDENT ATHLETE DEATHS:

The death this August of Georgia high school football star, DJ Searcy, refocused attention on Florida’s need for more guidelines to prevent heat-related deaths. The young athlete, who died at a football camp in North Florida, was the second in Florida and one of thirteen fatalities nationwide this past year.

To change that, state Senator Bill Montford (D-Tallahassee) on Tuesday announced the filing of legislation designed to prevent deaths caused by heat illness and institute preventative life saving measures to protect student athletes. Adoption of the new law would ensure the safety of high school interscholastic athletics, cheerleaders, and marching bands, and make Florida the first state in the South to pass such legislation.

“The well-being of our children is not only critical inside our classrooms, but on our playing fields as well,” said Sen. Montford. “In the extreme heat we have here in the South, this legislation will assist school districts in meeting the challenge of providing an even safer environment for our young people.”

Heat exhaustion claims the life of high school football players at an alarming rate, and the soaring temperatures across the nation this summer created no exception to this pattern. Defensive lineman DJ Searcy was a star on his Fitzgerald, Georgia high school football team, and recruited by several Division I College Football Programs. DJ was only with his football team for three days at the North Florida camp, before passing out in the bathroom after a day of practice in extreme heat the night of August 1, 2011. The next morning, DJ lost consciousness after practice and died.

On what would have been DJ’s 17th birthday, Dr. Douglas J. Casa, Korey Stringer Institute’s Chief Operating Officer explained that heat-related deaths are 100% preventable in two ways: having emergency plans in place to bring down the core body temperature, and taking precautions to prevent body temperatures from getting extremely high. The National Athletic Trainers Association issued an inter-association consensus statement in 2009 with recommendations on how to acclimatize athletes to hot-weather activity gradually with specifics as to the limitation of duration and equipment worn during high school athletic practices. Studies have also shown that for about $150.00, coaches and athletic trainers can purchase a tub to fill with ice which drastically increases a person’s chance of survival when experiencing heat illness.


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