Criminal Culpability for Heat-Related Deaths Among High School Athletics

Although training is critical in preventing injuries during competitions, the strenuous practice often results in many athletes’ deaths. Recently, the number of athletes succumbing to training injuries has risen consistently due to numerous temperature-related illnesses, such as heat stroke. However, leading researchers contend that since these experiences are precipitated by excessive physical exertion, the ultimate responsibility of avoiding heat-related conditions rests with coaches and trainers (Feingold, 2011). Therefore, high school coaches should not take risk that expose student to injuries or death.

Despite the risk of fatalities or death occasioned by excessive physical exertion from high school coaches, no clear rules guide learning institutions’ practice conditions. Feingold (2011) notes that there are no known school handbooks prescribing punishment for trainers or athletic directors. Moreover, some states are yet to formulate oversight policies for high school sports, leaving training sessions unregulated and exacerbating the growing incidences of heat-related deaths. Feingold (2011) posits that coaches should discern the appropriate sport for different seasons to mitigate injury and death risks among the trainees. Thus, the absence of policy frameworks by states and school districts leave high school trainees unprotected.

Trainers should adopt preventive interventions that protect students from injuries and deaths. For instance, availing drinking water and minimizing intense outdoor practice sessions in late spring and summer months, when temperatures reach potentially dangerous levels, protects students from exertional heat illnesses. The disregard of such measures increases the risk of injury or death, and potential criminal proceedings against coaches for negligence and wrongful death. However, both criminal and tort liabilities are difficult to establish against trainers, as revealed by Feingold based on Max Gilpin’s case (Feingold, 2011). Thus, such legislation would deter trainers’ negligence of pushing trainees beyond their endurance levels.

Feingold’s approach prescribes a broad spectrum of solutions that advance the popularity of high school athletics while enhancing student safety. In my view, the author’s legislative proposals can foster excellent athlete safety compared to other suggestions, such as the provision of ice baths, which are unpractical. Conclusively, I concur with Feingold’s view that protecting trainers from criminal culpability should not override the pursuit of safer sporting for teenagers.


Feingold, D. (2011). Note: Who takes the heat? Criminal liability for heat-related deaths in high school athletics. Cardozo Journal of Law and Gender, 1-24.

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