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Higher Ed Committee Advances Gopal Legislation to Prevent, Treat Athletes’ Exertional Heat Illness

TRENTON – In an effort to better protect young people and young athletes from falling ill or even dying from heat-related illness, the Senate Higher Education Committee advanced legislation sponsored by Senator Vin Gopal that will require public colleges to adopt a policy for prevention and treatment of exertional heat illness, revise the ‘Heat Participation Policy’ adopted by the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) and also require a pamphlet on heat stroke to be distributed to student-athletes, parents, and coaches at public colleges and K-12 schools.


This bill, S-349, was introduced in response to the tragic death of Braeden Bradforth, who left his home in Neptune Township, New Jersey in the summer of 2018 to attend a community college in Kansas. Braeden passed away at school from exertional heat stroke following a grueling conditioning test his football team was made to run in the heat of August.


A 2019 report from an independent investigation concluded that no consideration was given to Braeden’s level of acclimatization to the weather, and that there was no plan to assist student-athletes showing signs of external heat illness. This bill seeks to address the serious issue of exertional heat stroke among student athletes.


We all enjoy the thrill of athletic competition, and enjoy watching those we know and love participate in team sports at the scholastic level, but we also want to make sure those athletes are kept safe and secure from harm,” said Senator Gopal (D-Monmouth). “This legislation will ensure schools and universities are keeping their players safe on and off the field. What happened to Braeden should never happen again, and this legislation will put procedures in place to help protect students’ health.”    


Under the bill, the revised criteria to be followed by NJSIAA member schools, in conjunction with the Heat Participation Policy, would include the following:


  • at least a five-step progression of heat-acclimatization modifications, with specific modification of equipment, if applicable to the sport, specific modification of work to rest ratios, specific modification of total practice time, specific modification of water breaks, and the use of shaded area for rest breaks;


  • WetBulb Globe Temperature guidelines; and


  • a requirement that student-athletes have uninhibited access to hydration and a cooling space which can be a shaded area or an indoor air-conditioned area. At a WetBulb Globe Temperature level of 80, ice will be available to coaches and student-athletes.


The legislation passed out of committee by a vote of 5-0.