Middleton football player Hezekiah Walters passed away during football conditioning drills this summer.

The Hillsborough County school board has made some much needed changes in regard to students’ health and safety when they partake in extracurricular activities.

In an August 20 board meeting, the school board adopted a proposal to have full-time athletic trainers at every high school. The plan passed unanimously. The proposal came after Middleton football player Hezekiah Walters passed away during football conditioning drills this summer.

Certified athletic trainers from the University of South Florida SMART Institute (USF), Select Physical Therapy and PT Solutions Holdings, LLC will now provide their services to each Hillsborough County Public High School. Each school will have an athletic trainer year round.

About $270,000 will now be available in the Safety and Risk Management budget. Before this proposal passed, there were athletic trainers at only half of the high schools, and they weren’t available for summer conditioning. The trainers were not employees of the county, and their time was typically donated to the school from a medical group or outside organization.

In addition, the board wants all paid coaches to continue to receive emergency medical training. They are all CPR and AED certified, and they must take nationally standardized courses each year, including Concussion in Sports and Heat Illness Prevention, and the football coaches must have Heads Up Football safety training.

The coaches are also directed to ensure shade and plenty of water are available. The county follows all FHSAA guidelines for frequent water breaks, rest and restricting how long conditioning and practice can last. In addition to the athletic trainers, the county provided cold immersion tubs a few years ago.

“We want you to rest assured when your child is taking part in after-school activities that they are being cared for by highly trained staff who put their students’ safety above everything else,” said Hillsborough County Superintendent Jeff Eakins.

For more information, visit the Hillsborough County website at sdhc.k12.fl.us and click on the ‘athletics’ tab.

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Nick Nahas
Nick Nahas has written for the Osprey Observer since 2016. He has lived in the Valrico area since 2002 and has his bachelor’s degree in mass communications from the University of South Florida. He is dedicated to covering sports in Hillsborough County at every level.