Exertional Heat Stroke Death and Illnesses:

How we can help

Exertional Heat Illnesses and fatalities impacting Floridians - especially athletes and workers – remain a major issue in the state, therefore it is important to know your legal rights if the appropriate safety measures are not in place. The personal injury attorneys at Aloia, Roland, Lubell & Morgan, PLLC possess the advanced education and knowledge to educate you on your rights when a loved one needlessly dies or is seriously injured due to preventable Exertional Heat Stroke (EHS).


Facing the heat in Florida

Heat exposure remains a significant health concern in Florida. As average temperatures rise each year because of global warming, so do the deadly statistics. There were 75 Exertional Heat Stroke fatalities of high school athletes between 2000 and 2022 in the US. Six of those deaths were in Florida.


Local death results in new legislation

The 2017 death of former Riverdale High School football player Zach Martin, because of Exertional Heat Stroke, led to new legislation strengthening protocols to help prevent further exertional heat-related deaths or illnesses in our high schools. The Zachary Martin Act was signed into law by Gov. Ron DeSantis in 2020 requiring that FHSAA-regulated programs provide cooling zones with cold-water immersion tubs, to monitor heat stress levels, and have individuals trained in CPR present at all practices and games, as well as an automated external defibrillator.


The main types of Exertional Heat Illnesses:

Exertional Heat Cramps: Painful muscle cramps and spasms that occur during or after intense exertion and sweating.

Symptoms include localized muscle cramps, localized pain, dehydration, thirst, sweating, and fatigue.

Treatment includes rest, passive static stretching of the affected muscles, high electrolyte drinks or food.

Exertional Heat Syncope: Caused by unfit or unacclimatized athletes and workers when they are working in heat for prolonged periods of time.

Symptoms includes dizziness, brief fainting episodes, tunnel vision, pale/sweaty skin, decreased pulse, low body temperature <102.2°

Treatment includes moving to a shaded area or indoors with A/C, monitor vitals every five minutes, elevate legs above the heart, cool down, rehydrate.

Exertional Heat Exhaustion: Caused by a loss of fluids and salt without adequate replacement from over-exertion and excessive sweating.

Symptoms include thirst, feeling too hot/can’t cool down, dizziness, fainting, muscle cramps, impaired muscle function, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, headache, excessive fatigue, weakness, anxiety and difficulty focusing or other minor cognitive changes.

Treatment includes removing equipment and excess clothing, moving to a shaded area or indoors with A/C, begin cold water immersion or whole-body cooling on site, hydration, elevate legs above the heart, call 911, monitor vitals every 5 minutes, IV fluid replacement.

Exertional Heat Stroke: A medical emergency.

Symptoms include confusion, aggression, loss of consciousness, seizures, increased heart rate, low blood pressure, rapid breathing, core body temp over 105°.

Treatment: Immediately get them out of direct sun, indoors, or into air conditioning and start cold water immersion on site within 15 minutes of collapse, then call 911.


Tips on preventing exertional heat-related incidents

Do not leave children unattended in vehicles: Florida law requires a child younger than 6 years of age cannot be left unattended or unsupervised in a vehicle for longer than 15 minutes, any period the vehicle is running, or if the child is in danger.

Limit your time in the heat: Try and keep your outdoor time confined to the mornings, evenings and in shaded areas. Access to water should never be limited. If possible, rearrange sports practices and work schedules to avoid the heat. Always refer to the Wet Bulb Globe Temperature readings and follow the work/rest/water intake guidelines for your region. Florida is located in Category 3 of the WBGT US map.

Make healthy choices when outdoors: Stay hydrated with water, electrolyte replacements, and other non-alcoholic drinks and spend time in cool places. Avoid hot, heavy meals, and constant strenuous outside activity. Wear sunscreen, hats, light-colored and lightweight clothing that allows sweat evaporation.

Monitor those at risk: If you have school aged athletes, ask coaches and athletic directors if their schools have the proper equipment and field specific EAP’s to respond to exertional heat illness and emergencies on site. Pay special attention to allow for acclimatization when starting a sport or job that requires physical exertion in direct sunlight or during the hottest hours of the day (10am-5pm).

If you are a victim of heat-related illnesses in Florida, call the attorneys at Aloia, Roland, Lubell & Morgan at 239-533-9667 or go to [email protected] for more information.

Click on the link below to learn more about high school safety policies in the United States and what Florida needs to do to ensure our high school kids are safe while playing sports at school https://ksi.uconn.edu/high-school-state-policies-2-2-2

In 2020, Aloia, Roland, Lubell & Morgan, PLLC senior partners and lead attorneys, Ty Roland and Evan Lubell reached a settlement agreement with the School Board of Lee County, by a unanimous vote, to approve a cash settlement and the creation of an annual memorial football game aimed to promote Exertional Heat Stroke awareness, education, and prevention. Also, with the help of Aloia Roland, The Zach Martin Memorial Foundation is able to provide cold water immersion tubs, environmental thermometers, and assistance with venue-specific emergency action plans to high school and club sports programs nationwide.