New Jersey tops the nation for rules in place designed to keep student-athletes safe during their high school years on the court and field.

In updated rankings from the Korey Stringer Institute, named after a professional football player who passed away in 2001 from exertional heat stroke, the Garden State moved out of fourth place and grabbed the top spot from North Carolina for the implementation of health and safety policies that can help prevent sudden death and catastrophic injury among secondary school athletes.

"I think it's more important that we're just accomplishing the right thing — doing what's best and the safest for our student-athletes," Jack Kripsak, chairman of the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association's medical advisory board, said of the state's No.1 ranking.

The institute's rubric is based on policies that were mandated and in place for the 2017-2018 academic year. Researchers gathered policies from each state's public high school athletic association and Department of Education, along with enacted legislation.

"Sometimes there are legal restraints that don't allow states to progress," Kripsak said.

The Garden State scored 79.03 out of 100 points across five sections pertaining to sudden cardiac arrest, traumatic head injuries, exertional heat stroke, appropriate medical coverage and emergency preparedness.

As the new national leader, the Garden State's most recent mandates include tighter regulation of off-season strength and conditioning sessions, as well as cold water immersion tubs at all high school practices and games. The state also took on a "cool first, transport second" policy for potential heat stroke victims, which is said to dramatically improve a person's chances of survival.

New Jersey also has updated guidelines on when athletes can return to play following a concussion.

In the area of heat acclimatization, New Jersey prohibits double-practice sessions on the first five days of practice, the report notes. Afterwards, a double-practice day must be following by a single-practice day.

The state missed out on points for failing to base its heat policy off a WetBulb Globe Temperature tool, which is considered the optimal device for measuring heat stress in direct sunlight.

Under legislation introduced by state Sen. Patrick Diegnan in April, NJSIAA-member school districts would be required to purchase a WGBT tool.

"Based off a huge chart that's now on our website, you can tell whether it's safe to practice, or whether you have to move practice to a different location, or create more water breaks," Kripsak said.

The state scored a perfect score for policies in place that address sudden cardiac arrest.

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