State lawmakers study heat-related injuries in youth athletes

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A study committee on heat-related injuries met for the final time on Monday at Welcome All Park.

They chose the park because it was there that 12-year-old Johnny Tolbert, III collapsed during a football practice in 2016.  His parents made the difficult decision to take him off life support two weeks later.

"Any time you see that it's heartbreaking.  You know, as a father of four I feel terrible," said State Rep. Kasey Carpenter, R-Dalton, chairman of the Johnny Tolbert, III Study Commission on Heat-Related Injuries, Cardiac Injuries, and Other Sports-Related Injuries

Over two meetings, the commission heard testimony from medical experts, coaches and parents about the dangers of exercise and extreme heat. 

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"The most important thing, in my opinion, is awareness that heat stroke is an emergency and improving awareness and education about how to respond in the field," said Dr. Ben Levkove, Medical Director for Emory Decatur Hospital's emergency department.

Dr. Levkove said overheating is a "life-threatening emergency" and people at the scene should do everything they can to cool down the patient's body temperature, including putting the person into an ice bath, removing their clothing or using ice packs. 

Rep. Carpenter said he would like to see youth sports organizations invest in ice baths so that they are there in case of a heat emergency.  He said educating organizations and parents is also critical. 

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"The biggest thing for me is can we come up with a common-sense solution that doesn't burden parks and rec enough that kids quite participating and coaches quit volunteering," Rep. Carpenter explained.

The study commission must submit their recommendations by December 31.