Keeping student athletes safe

Posted by: Courtney Bearsch  | Friday, August 14, 2015

A new school year has begun, and for many, the end of summer is in sight. It may still be hot and humid during the day, but evening temperatures are getting lower and lower and the morning sun is beginning to rise later and later. Hoosiers are rarely excited to see the warm temperatures and summer go, but there is also an upside to fall, because fall is football season!

Whether it’s the Indianapolis Colts, your favorite college team or even our local student athletes, Hoosiers love their football. There is always the hope that this year will finally be the year, especially if you are an Indiana University fan, like me! Everyone wants their team to win, but no matter how good or bad they may be, as loyal fans, we continue to have fun and still support our favorite teams, game after game. Ultimately, that is what sports should be about – fun – and in order to maintain that, we must hold safety in the highest regard. 

In the U.S., sudden cardiac arrest claims the lives of approximately 500 athletes each year. Having worked in the healthcare industry for over 40 years, I felt compelled to take the lead on this issue. During the 2014 session, I collaborated with the American Heart Association to craft a law which requires the Department of Education to disseminate guidelines, information sheets and forms to schools so that they can educate coaches, student athletes, parents and legal guardians of the nature and risk of sudden cardiac arrest.

At the post-secondary level, it also requires the Commission on Higher Education to disseminate such documents to the educational institution’s athletic department so that they can inform their coaches and student athletes as well.

Putting this awareness into action, any high school athlete who is suspected of experiencing a symptom of sudden cardiac arrest must be removed from the athletic activity at the time the symptom is identified. If available, an athletic trainer can now make a first assessment of the athlete. Once they are cleared, they cannot return to play until their parent or legal guardian has provided verbal permission. Within 24 hours, the parent or legal guardian must also provide written permission.

Also as a result of this new law and private funding, each school corporation and accredited nonpublic school has the instructors and resources necessary to teach CPR psychomotor skills in their high school health education curriculum. In addition, high schools will also instruct students on the use of an automated external defibrillator. 

Although this law went into effect last July, we understood that its implementation would not occur overnight. We knew it would take time for schools to compile this information and gather these resources. Thus, this school year will be the first year that students will experience the full benefit of this new law. 

Each August, I look forward to the opportunity to share in the successes of our local students –athletically and academically. Whether it is in the classroom or on the field, it is imperative that we, as elected officials, do our due diligence to keep our students safe.

As the fall sports season approaches, I pray for the safety of all Hoosier students, and I am thankful for the opportunity to champion legislation that makes their safety a priority. To learn more about this law or others, please visit