The National Football League announced a partnership with the University of Connecticut during the NFL Draft. As WNPR's Lucy Nalpathanchil reports, the NFL is helping fund an institute at UConn that will focus on preventing unnecessary deaths among athletes.
In August of 2001, pro offensive lineman Korey Stringer suffered an exertion heat stroke during the Minnesota Vikings training camp. The heat stroke caused his organs to fail, and he died. He was 27 years old.
His widow, Kelci, sued the NFL saying the Vikings were unprepared to deal with a heat illness on a day when the heat index was 110 degrees. Last year, the NFL settled the suit but Stringer's widow wanted her husband's legacy to continue. She soon connected with Dr. Douglas Casa, a UConn professor and national expert on exertional heat illnesses.
"The primary mission of the Korey Stringer Institute is to deliver information and knowledge related to heat stroke. So, parents, coaches, athletes, athletic directors, people who are in school systems that are in day-to-day contact with athletes. But then also trying to help the medical staff, so team physicians, EMTs involved in the prevention, recognition, and treatment of heat stroke."
Casa will be the lead researcher at the Korey Stringer Institute. It's also getting financial support from the NFL Players Association and Gatorade. Casa says heat stroke deaths have actually increased in the last five years - something the institute hopes to curb through outreach efforts
"We're having consultations, meaning schools can share with us their emergency action plans and polices related to heat stroke and other common causes of sudden death in sport, and then we can critique those policies and work with them to try to enhance their policies."
Casa says only half of the high schools in America have athletic trainers or medical professionals on site to treat athletic injuries. Connecticut's high schools follow that trend. And coaches here are required to take first aid and CPR courses and to know the signs of serious injury or heat related illnesses.