The Dallas Morning News
February 21, 2023
Texas lawmakers are set to debate a number of bills in Austin during this year’s legislative session that would affect high school athletes.
From player safety to name, image and likeness, here are six issues on the table.
Heatstroke is the leading cause of preventable death in high school athletics, according to the National Federation of State High School Associations. However, Texas ranks among the worst states in the country when it comes to heat safety protocols and their enforcement.
Of the three pillars of heat safety — heat acclimatization, Wet Bulb Globe Temperature monitoring and proper emergency response — the UIL only requires the first. Two state representatives are looking to change that.
Rep. Donna Howard, a Democrat who represents much of central and south Austin, proposed House Bill 395, which would require public schools to use the Wet Bulb Globe Temperature to determine whether conditions are safe for student outdoor activities in extreme heat. The Wet Bulb Globe Temperature is a comprehensive measurement that accounts for ambient temperature, relative humidity, wind and solar radiation.
Rep. Ana Hernandez, D-Houston, proposed HB 1797, which would require each school to adopt and implement a policy regarding heat safety for extracurricular activities. It would include using the Wet Bulb Globe Temperature and require schools to modify or suspend activity if conditions are unsatisfactory.
Sudden cardiac arrest
Rep. Jon Rosenthal, D-Houston, filed HB 691 back in November, months before Bills safety Damar Hamlin suffered sudden cardiac arrest during a Monday Night Football game, which garnered national attention for the issue.
Rosenthal’s bill would amend the state’s education code to add details on the expectations of both public and private schools. It outlines recommended prevention and response if a student experiences the signs and symptoms of sudden cardiac arrest.
The bill would require schools to develop guidelines to educate students, parents and coaches regarding sudden cardiac arrest. Educational videos and website materials would teach about the warning signs and risks associated with continued athletic participation after experiencing symptoms.
The bill also outlines the required form that parents and students must sign ahead of athletic participation each year — which is already required by the UIL — as well as the process to remove students with symptoms from practice or competition and to clear them to return.
Spring Republican Rep. Valoree Swanson has introduced additional legislation that would extend the terms of House Bill 25, the law that went into effect last year requiring K-12 students in Texas to play on sports teams according to their gender assigned at birth.
Both Swanson and Sen. Mayes Middleton , R-Galveston, have filed two versions of the same legislation that would extend the transgender sports ban to the collegiate level and expand it to include banning transgender youth from sports participation, in general (in addition to competition).
Last weekend at a gathering of the Young America’s Foundation in Dallas, Gov. Greg Abbott supported the legislation, stating: “This next session, we will pass a law prohibiting biological men to compete against women in college sports [sic].”
As concussions continue to impact high school athletes across the state and nation, Amarillo GOP Rep. Four Price proposed HB 1002, which would amend part of the state education code that discusses concussions and the members of schools’ concussion oversight teams.
A concussion oversight team is in charge of establishing return-to-play protocols for students in interscholastic athletics following an impact believed to have caused a concussion. Currently, each team must include at least one athletic trainer, advanced practice nurse, neuropsychologist and physician assistant.
The bill would allow the oversight team to include other licensed medical professionals, such as chiropractors or physical therapists, and give some of them the authority to remove a student from practice or competition if they believe he or she has sustained a concussion.
Name, image and likeness
Name, image and likeness for high school athletes remains a top issue in this year’s session, as Southlake Republican Rep. Giovanni Capriglione authored HB 1802, which would allow 18-year-olds to receive compensation for their name, image and likeness.
Two additional bills would affect the UIL. Senate Bill 795, also proposed by Middleton, would transfer jurisdiction over the UIL from the University of Texas at Austin to the Texas Education Agency. The UIL would have to submit its rules and procedures to the TEA commissioner for approval.
HB 699, authored by Wichita Falls Republican Rep. James Frank, would compel the UIL to use the same formula to classify schools that allow unenrolled students to participate in league activity as they do for schools that allow only enrolled students to participate. Schools’ designation in Class 6A or Class 5A would be determined the same for those that allow unenrolled student participation as those that only allow enrolled students.