Organization Day was Nov. 19, which kicked off the 2014 legislative session. While this day is mostly ceremonial, the Speaker of the House, Brian Bosma, outlined some of his priorities and expectations for the upcoming year. We will be focusing on jobs, economic development, education and infrastructure. These are the main priorities, but I will also be addressing other issues that impact Hoosiers.
I will be authoring a bill concerning sudden cardiac arrest awareness. This is actually a bill that I introduced during the 2013 legislative session as well; however, due to the large number of complex issues being discussed in the Education Committee, it did not receive a hearing. Despite this, the legislation was referred to a summer study committee, the Commission on Education, to be explored in greater detail.
When you hear “sudden cardiac arrest,” what comes to mind? Chances are, you probably think of an older individual; however not only is sudden cardiac arrest one of the leading causes of death in the United States, but it is also affecting our youth at an alarming rate. In fact, each day, this medical emergency affects about 16 people under the age of 18.
The bill that I will introduce will be implemented in all Indiana schools that have an organized sports program from elementary school all the way up to the collegiate level and will address the issue in three essential ways. First, and perhaps most importantly, it will raise awareness. This will be accomplished by requiring the Department of Education to provide an online program for coaches, parents and athletes which would teach them about the nature and risk of sudden cardiac arrest as well as what signs to be on the lookout for. These signs include fainting, difficulty breathing, chest pains, dizziness or an abnormal racing heart.
Second, this bill will require a player to be benched if they exhibit any of these warning signs. This will be the case during a game or even a team practice. Before the player will be allowed to return to the game or practice, they will have to be evaluated by a healthcare provider.
This brings us to the third and final provision which will classify athletic trainers as healthcare providers. These individuals are already trained and certified in this area, and it is purely an oversight that they are not already labeled as healthcare providers. Many schools already employ an athletic trainer, so they would now be able to evaluate a student if necessary.
When we discussed this topic in the summer study committee, we heard testimony of not only local support but also national support. Indiana is not standing alone in this battle. Currently, there is similar legislation pending in Pennsylvania, Iowa and six other states.
When it comes to children and their well-being, we can never be too careful. As a respiratory therapist, former youth softball coach and grandfather, I am proud to carry this legislation. To me, anytime that we can take an added measure to protect student athletes, it is worth it. The fact that this legislation will come at absolutely no cost whatsoever to the state is simply an added bonus. I truly hope that 2014 is the year that we take this big step towards sudden cardiac arrest awareness and subsequently, lives saved.