Ohio scores 43.93 out of 100 on Korey Stringer Institute evaluation

by Adam Clements & Stephanie Kuzydym, WKRC

Thursday, October 1st 2020

CINCINNATI (WKRC) - High school sports have endless rules that cover everything from the size of the court to the size of the team.

In Ohio, those bylaws are governed by the Ohio High School Athletics Association (OHSAA). Some rules are worded so strongly, they're more like sports law: Implement or you can't play.

The rules that aren't required, athletic directors told Local 12 Investigates, amount to nothing more than guidelines, and guidelines don't have to be changed.

But that's not the case at the Korey Stringer Institute (KSI), which was founded following Stringer's death to heatstroke.

 “We update our policies every six months,” said Doug Casa, the executive director of KSI.

In 2017, KSI began reviewing state association's policies based on a rubric, or formula, created from best practices across the industry. That document used to create that rubric was backed by the National Federation of High School Sport Associations.

“We call them one of the four H's, so head, heart, heat and hem,” said Christianne Eason, KSI’s vice president of sport safety.

That's because 90% of all deaths in sports occur under one of those four conditions, according to KSI. The rubric also includes emergency preparedness and medical coverage. Each category can receive up to 20 points.

Ohio's score is a 43.93 out of 100, which places them 40th out of 51 high school sports associations.

“Whenever we're ranked, we want to be the leader,” said Stu Wilson, a retired high school athletic trainer and a member of the OHSAA's Joint Advisory Committee on Sports Medicine, often referred to as a SMAC. “Our goal was always to be at the top. Forty is not impressive by any means.”

The SMAC is comprised of physicians and athletic trainers who assist the OHSAA with policies that protect athletes.

“We've been doing this for 62 years,” said Dr. Deborah Moore, the staff liaison of the OHSAA’s SMAC. “We have the oldest and longest-serving sports medicine committee.”

Moore does not agree with KSI's assessment.

“We did not agree, and that’s fine,” Moore said. “We don’t have to agree with them and they’re not our masters.”

Ohio wasn't assigned points to many of its policies because they are recommended.

“Recommended is not enough of a threshold for us,” Casa said. “They have to be required for us to give credit to a state, to assure that athletes are going to be safe.”

In Ohio, cold tubs are not required on the sidelines of a warm-weather practice. The state's heat section scored a 5.125 out of 20 points.

Wilson said in a SMAC committee meeting the heat policy was addressed.

“And one of the questions was what do we need to do to adjust this? And I kind of spoke up and said it’s real simple,” Wilson said. “We have to change recommended to required.”

KSI said in a summary that if Ohio improved its exertional heat stroke policy, it would jump to No. 11 in the rankings.

KSI is the only organization that reviews every state's sports association policies. After the first release of rankings, the NFHS issued an eight-page memo condemning KSI.

"Unfortunately, the Korey Stringer Institute has proclaimed itself as judge and jury of heat-illness prevention and other safety issues by ranking the 51 NFHS-member state high school associations."

“We never like to compare one state to another,” Eason told Local 12, “So even though the rankings represent where the states score, we really want to look at where the states score as an individual basis.”

“Whether they want to consider that a ranking or not, we are not going to consider them at all,” Moore said.

KSI was supposed to meet with stakeholders, including some members of the OHSAA's SMAC in May. That meeting was canceled due to the shutdown orders and hasn't been rescheduled.

*Update: A previous version of this story said the NFHS endorsed the rubric that KSI created to review sports safety policies. It has been updated to show that the NFHS endorsed the document that was used to create the rubric.

A Rule to Comply With: Did DeWine give sports an unfunded mandate?

by Adam Clements & Stephanie Kuzydym, WKRC

Wednesday, September 30th 2020

CINCINNATI (WKRC) - Sports and money. They go together like touchdowns and celebrations.

When it comes to high school sports, athletic departments try to operate in the black. When something new is implemented, the question is normally: Where will we get the money to pay for it?

And when there is no money, it's called an unfunded mandate.

When Local 12 started our "Athletes at Risk?" project, we wanted to understand how only 37% of high schools had a full-time athletic trainer.

 “Not that we don't support it, but it would be difficult for us to put in an unfunded mandate on our schools,” then-OHSAA commissioner Jerry Snodgrass said.

Then came the shutdown of sports due to the pandemic. For them to return, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine had a list of requirements, like the new job of a compliance officer.

“They’re going to have to have what we call a compliance person,” DeWine said during a press conference on Aug. 18. “They’re going to have to designate someone on staff who is a compliance person who makes sure everything is, in fact, being followed.”

Those requirements include items like fans wearing masks and sitting socially distanced in the stands. Local 12 Investigates reached out to area athletic directors to ask who their compliance officer was.

St. Xavier High School said they hired compliance officers.

“We're a big place and a big facility, so we'll have compliance officers,” St. Xavier Athletic Director Brian Reinhart said.

A majority of the ADs took on the job. Local 12 asked them to see how they would be compensated for their additional duty:

One AD said, "No extra compensation; just an extra duty."

Another AD said, "In kindness and grace (hopefully)."

And another answered, "Hah."

To ensure schools were complying, the OHSAA hired COVID observers.

“We send out 100 observers throughout the state each Friday night to work with the athletic administrators and just kind of go through protocols to make sure they're being followed,” OHSAA Commissioner Doug Ute said.

Since the OHSAA had to hire COVID observers, did the governor hand schools an unfunded mandate when he required compliance officers?

“That's a good question,” Reinhart said. “I think if it was normal times, it would certainly take a long time to mandate someone like that.”

“So any administrator that sees this will chuckle,” said Richard Bryant, Lakota East High School’s athletic director. “There's a little line at the bottom of my contract that says 'all other duties as assigned.' What a great catch-all.”

It's a question we will continue to ask.

From the players and coaches to the cheerleaders, bands and spectators, compliance officers have more than 25 things to comply with, and if the OHSAA’s COVID observers see that an athletic department is not in compliance, it could cause the school to forfeit the game.