Smith reintroduces bipartisan legislation named in honor of NJ football player Braeden Bradforth
Bill comes three years after sudden death from exertional heat stroke
Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) this week reintroduced Braeden’s Commission: Protect our Athletes from Exertional Heat Stroke (H.R. 4855)—bipartisan legislation named in honor of Braeden Bradforth, the college football player from Smith’s congressional district who died suddenly from exertional heat stroke following a team practice at a Kansas college on August 1, 2018.
“Braeden had the highest hopes of advancing his football career and playing in the NFL one day, but exertional heat stroke ended that beautiful dream,” said Rep. Smith. “Death by exertional heat stroke is 100% preventable, and this bill will help ensure that coaches, trainers and team support staff know how to utilize the best prevention and treatment practices, every time and everywhere, in order to save lives.”
The reintroduction of Smith’s legislation marks three years since Braeden’s tragic death and coincidently follows the sudden death of a 15 year-old high school football player, Joshua Ivory, who collapsed after his first day of practice earlier this week.
Cosponsored by Reps. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ), Jeff Van Drew (R-NJ) and Donald Payne Jr. (D-NJ), Smith’s bill would establish a commission to conduct a study on exertional heat stroke among student athletes across the country. In addition to developing recommendations to reduce fatalities from exertional heat stroke, the study would examine best practices for prevention, recognition and treatment of the life-threatening condition.
“Establishing Braeden’s Commission is more important than ever—especially now when it is scorching hot in places that aren’t normally hot, we need to make sure everyone is certified in first aid and CPR, and they can quickly spot the warning signs of exertional heat stroke,” said Joanne Atkins-Ingram, Braeden’s mother.
“We have to put the safety of the children first, regardless of where they go to school—everyone deserves the same humanity. Braeden’s Commission will ask the hard questions nobody wants to ask so we can keep every player safe,” she said.
Although preventable, exertional heat stroke is one of the top three causes of sudden death in athletes.
“As a society, we must acknowledge the fact that without the implementation of rules, regulations and guidelines such as that which are set forth in The Braeden Commission bill, history will continue to repeat itself by placing our children’s lives at risk while participating in athletics at every level,” said Jill Greene, the lawyer representing Braeden’s mother Joanne.
“It is not enough to say that our hearts ache when we hear about the teen who died playing school football on a sweltering hot day; we need to make changes to ensure that no other family will grieve such a horrific loss,” said Greene.
“Congressman Smith’s bill is surely a means of paving a path for protecting our young athletes. We are truly grateful for Congressman Smith’s relentless support and advocacy of the Braeden Commission,” Greene added.
Bradforth, a 19-year-old from Neptune, New Jersey, was awarded a scholarship in July 2018 to play football at Garden City Community College in Kansas (GCCC).
On August 1, 2018—only his second day on campus—Braeden collapsed following a team football practice and was found unresponsive. Taken to the hospital in an ambulance, he passed away just hours later from exertional heat stroke, an autopsy revealed.
Following months in which GCCC refused to provide information to the family about Braeden’s death, Smith joined Joanne Atkins-Ingram in pressing the college to conduct an independent investigation after learning no true investigation of Braeden’s death had been performed. Some nine months after Braeden’s death, and under great public pressure, GCCC voted to commission an independent investigation which was conducted over five months and publicly released in November of 2019.
Smith called the independent report “utterly heartbreaking” as it confirmed that Braeden’s death was 100 percent preventable and identified ‘a striking lack of leadership’ by GCCC officials which ‘set off a series of events that ended with the death of Braeden Bradforth.’
He said the report revealed numerous contributing causes in Braeden’s death including “the failure to timely identify and treat Braeden’s exertional heat illness.”
The creation of a national “Braeden’s Commission,” and its subsequent findings, “will go a long way to help others identify the signs and treat this life-threatening medical emergency before it takes the life of another athlete,” Smith said.
File photos: At right, Braeden’s mother, Joanne Atkins-Ingram, with Rep. Smith (R-NJ). ABC Channel 7 in 2019.