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High Schools must protect football players from growing heat stroke risk

Posted on Tuesday, August 7, 2012 at 12:02 pm

As the country continues to bake in a record hot summer, high school football players are getting ready to pack on full pads for preseason practice.

After last year’s deadly season, when several high school football players died from exhaustive heat stress, athletic associations across the country are taking steps to protect student athletes.

Coaches in Moore County are taking precautions as well.

“Our [athletic] trainer uses heat index indicators during practice. If at any point it gets too hot, we pull the kids off the field, take of the equipment and practice is shorts and helmets,” explains MCHS Head Coach Scott Smith.

Since 2006, at least 20 high school football players have died from exertional heat stroke, according to the University of North Carolina’s National Center for Catastrophic Sport Injury Research. A Centers for Disease Control (CDC) study found that heat illness is the leading cause of death and disability among American high school athletes, sickening more than 9,000 annually, with football players at highest risk.

All student athletes are at risk and their level of risk depends on how hot and humid it is outside and their physical conditioning. Thankfully, every exertional heat stroke death is preventable, and national and state high school athletic associations are taking action.

The National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) has released a position statement emphasizing progressive training, rest breaks, reducing the amount of equipment athletes wear, reducing practice intensity and duration as heat and humidity increase, and emergency response plans, including on-site rapid cooling.

“We take frequent water breaks, and water is always available to our players if they want it,” says Coach Smith. •