Zach Martin worked hard on the football field. He was a 300-pound, 6-foot-4 offensive lineman at Riverdale High School in Fort Myers who protected his quarterback at all cost.
In 2017, Martin collapsed during a routine high school football practice. Martin was rushed to the hospital and died 11 days later.
His mother, Laurie Giordano, has been actively lobbying Florida lawmakers to approve a bill that would require high schools to act quick when students show signs of heat stroke or other heat-related stresses.
Senate Bill 2020, also known as the Zach Martin Act, was passed by the Senate earlier this month and a similar bill cleared the House in February. If signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis, public schools in Florida would be required to have immediate access to emergency cooling tubs and other life-saving equipment to save student-athletes from deadly heat strokes.
Tyeise Canidate said, “The heat is nothing to play with, literally. It’s nothing I think our athletes should be forced to practice in either. It would absolutely break my heart if my brother ever suffered from a heat-related injury, something that could be prevented. Some days I worry about him when I pick him up after practices because he is too tired to even talk.”
According to state officials, in the 2017-18 academic year, more that 460 student-athletes were treated for exertion heat strokes.
According to the National Center for Catastrophic Sports Injury Research, between 1998 and 2019, 47 high school football players nationwide died from heatstroke or related complications.
At minimum, the legislation would require schools to have containers, such as tubs and inflatable pools, that can be filled with cool water to submerge and cool down an overheating student. All FHSAA member schools will also be required to take heat illness training.
“I played football for four years in high school. To know that they are wanting to place equipment near the flied for players in the strenuous heat means a lot to me. Playing and practicing in the heat is dangerous,” said Timothy Ashley.
After her son’s death, Giordano founded the Zach Martin Memorial Foundation, which has worked to raise awareness about the dangers of heat-related stresses. They have also donated 40 cooling tubs to schools across Florida.
“To know that someone really cares about athlete’s health, it makes me feel good inside. It makes me unafraid to play the game I love,” said Kalon Richardson, a senior football player at Florida High.