Max Gilpin was 15 years old when he died in August, just three days after
passing out during a grueling football practice. How grueling? So grueling that
prosecutors are now charging Gilpin’s coach, David Jason Stinson, with reckless
Prosecutors claim that Stinson acted irresponsibly by overworking his
players in sweltering weather with a 94-degree heat index. They say he should
have known that heat stroke was possible in such weather.
According to witnesses, Coach Stinson repeatedly yelled at the players and
told them they would have to run sprints up and down the field until one of
them quit the team. One witness told police it was “appalling” how
the coaches were treating the players; another witness said it was typical
So why is the coach being charged? One witness says no water was offered to
the players; the log shows the team received three water breaks in a 30-minute
period shortly after taking the field but none after the sprinting began.
Gilpin was not the first player to collapse that day. Another student
collapsed around 6pm; he was taken to the shade and treated with water and ice
packs. Fifteen minutes later, Gilpin collapsed and was treated similarly; when
he did not respond well to treatment the paramedics were called. Both students
were taken to the hospital, where Gilpin died three days later.
I do think that high school athletics can be a bit rough, and clearly practice should have ended when the first player collapsed, but I don’t really
understand why this coach is being criminally charged. There have been other
football players who died from heat stroke during practice, most notably
Minnesotta Vikings offensive lineman Korey Stringer, who died in 2001.
According to the National Center for Catastrophic Injury Research, there were six
heat-related deaths in high school and college athletics in 2008. More than 120
athletes have died since 1931. No coach has ever been criminally charged.
Obviously, nothing will bring Max Gilpin back. But hopefully his death will
make coaches think twice about their practice techniques in extreme heat. I
don’t think the threat of a murder charge can have any more power than that.
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