NEPTUNE TOWNSHIP – On July 30 of last year, star athlete Braeden Bradforth left his home in Neptune Township to attend Garden City Community College in Garden City, Kansas. Just two days later, Braeden passed away at school after football practice, his death sending a shockwave through his community and devastating his family.
Braeden’s autopsy revealed that he had suffered from exertional heat stroke following the grueling conditioning “test” his team was made to run in the heat of August: thirty-six fifty-yard dashes in a row, each in under eight seconds – and without access to water. Since this tragedy, Senator Vin Gopal has urged the Kansas Attorney General to further investigate the case, and today introduced “Braeden’s Law” in the New Jersey State Senate to protect other student athletes from suffering Braeden’s fate.
“With the one-year anniversary of the death of my son Braeden having just passed, I am very grateful for the efforts of Senator Gopal in introducing legislation which addresses the serious issue of exertional heat stroke among student athletes,” said Braeden’s mother, Joanne Atkins-Ingram. “Such legislation will provide the essential guidelines so desperately needed to help educate and inform coaches, trainers, athletic staff, student athletes and the public as a whole in regard to the prevention, recognition and treatment of exertional heat stroke. With this legislation, hopefully no other mother will endure the pain of losing a child to EHS.”
“This kind of heat stroke should never be fatal,” said Gopal (D-Long Branch). “If the team had obtained the proper medical equipment, taken Braeden to a doctor, or even just allowed players to hydrate during their practice, he’d still be alive today. Student-athletes and their families deserve to know how they can prevent heat stroke from happening and how they can treat it swiftly when it does. Schools and universities need to make sure that they’re doing their part to keep their players safe – and when they don’t, we need to make sure to hold them accountable.”
Under the bill, school districts and New Jersey public colleges will be required to establish a policy to prevent and treat exertional heat illnesses in athletes for all practices, games, and athletic contests. These policies must outline strategies for acclimatizing players to hot weather, guidelines for modifying or cancelling games in sufficiently hot weather, and a requirement that student-athletes have uninhibited access to hydration and a space to cool off.
The bill also requires that an independent third party investigate any student-athlete deaths related to their athletic performance. The Commissioner of Education will commission any such investigations for school districts, while universities will be responsible for commissioning an investigation into the death of any player that attended that school.
Finally, the Commissioner of Education will also be required to prepare and share a pamphlet about exertional heat stroke with student-athletes and their families. The pamphlet must include an explanation of exertional heat stroke, how to prevent it, a list of risk factors and early warning signs and symptoms, and a list of appropriate treatments. All student-athletes, their parents, and coaching staff will be required to acknowledge receiving and reviewing this pamphlet.