On Tuesday, two more high school athletes lives were cut short for the third time in four days. This time yet another Southern state was thrown into the deadly mix, with both Georgia high school players left as tragic victims.
According to the Associated Press and a variety of media outlets in the Jacksonville, Florida area, Fitzgerald (Ga.) High defensive lineman Don'terio Searcy was found unresponsive in his cabin on Tuesday morning at Florida Bible Camp, where the Fitzgerald High football team is holding its annual preseason football training camp. The lineman was found after participating in morning practices.
Searcy was immediately transported to a nearby hospital, but all attempts to revive the 16-year-old failed, with the teenager pronounced dead at the medical center. The cause of death remains unknown, but dangerous temperatures and an even more threatening heat index are likely to have played a role in the teen's death. Temperatures in High Springs, Fla., near the team's camp site, reached 92 degrees on Monday and an even higher mark on Tuesday, according to weather.com.
The Fitzgerald community is now rallying around Searcy's former teammates and classmates to try and ease the grief process. FirstCoastNews.com reported that grief counselors were immediately dispatched to be with the Fitzgerald football program, and the team planned to return to Georgia on Tuesday night or during the day on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, across the state another Georgia teen lost a week-long battle for his life fighting for his life after falling ill with heat stroke. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that Locust Grove (Ga.) High center Forrest Jones had been in critical condition after falling ill with heat stroke, which was diagnosed immediately after a summer football practice in the final week of July.
Jones death came after days with the teen in critical condition at a Georgia hospital. His father told the Journal-Constitution earlier on Tuesday that his son's prognosis was "not looking good at all."
Together, the victims make a death toll of four in four days, all seemingly connected to the blazing hot summer conditions teams are training in. While there are no current ongoing campaigns to cut short summer training, it wouldn't be surprising for a groundswell to begin mounting right about now, given the drastic consequences we've seen among teens who have competed in the heat.
Yet, the Journal-Constitution's Michael Carvell reported that the two Georgia deaths were the state's first in five years, with the Georgia High School Activities Association reportedly considering adopting a more strict heat policy after the organization receives full results from a three-year study that it commissioned on heat-related risks facing high school athletes. The 2011 summer is the final season covered in that three year study.
"[Our heat policy] does not address voluntary football workouts over the summer, although we do encourage that schools do this," GHSA executive director Ralph Swearngin told the Journal-Constitution. "In fact, it is my understanding that Locust Grove High School takes a wet-bulb reading before every one of the voluntary workouts over the summer, including the one where the young man went down.
"When that study is over, we'll have hard and fast data that will maybe cause us to change our policy."