Deadly reminder: Heat kills Florida teen at HS football camp

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                </div>  Just about every man or woman who has ever decided to coach basketball has done it because they love the sport.  However, there might have been some consideration given […]<!-- AddThis Sharing Buttons below -->
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Just about every man or woman who has ever decided to coach basketball has done it because they love the sport.  However, there might have been some consideration given to another aspect of that decision… comfort.

Basketball is generally played in the air-conditioned comfort of a gymnasium, not on the frozen turf of a football field in the middle of winter or under the sweltering summer sun of a baseball field.

But here in Arizona, it’s excessive heat that high-school football players must deal with.  Studies have shown that football players nationwide are far more prone to heat illnesses than other athletes.  From 2006 to 2012, a total of 20 high-school football players died from exertional heat stroke.

Football players here don’t have to be too concerned about the games played during the winter months of November and December because temperatures, even at night, are pretty moderate.  However, it’s the summer heat that takes its toll, particularly during August when preparations for the beginning of a new season are in high gear – and there’s no escaping the heat from the desert floor that will reach well over 100 degrees on most days.

News last week of a 14-year-old in Florida that died after falling victim to over-heating during a pre-season high school football camp brought the deadly dangers of heat exhaustion back to front-of-mind.  Coaches tried to cool his body temperature with cold water and called 911 right away, but the player was already unresponsive by the time the ambulance arrived.

Temperatures at the camp, located just southwest of Jacksonville, were only in the mid-80s, but the humidity that was hanging heavy in the Florida air raised the heat index into the mid-90s.

Here in the desert, it’s a dry heat – but in some ways even more dangerous.  Heat illness from exertion under the unrelenting desert sun can sneak up on a player without warning.

Fortunately, Arizona has stepped up to the plate in dealing with the issue.  In June of 2012 the state adopted heat-acclimatization guidelines that were endorsed by the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS), becoming one of the earliest states to get on board the program.

The guidelines, similar to those adopted at the college level, recommend limiting the number of practices per day and the number of hours each practice session.  They also suggest what gear can be worn during the early period of adjustment to the heat – helmets, shirts, shorts, and cleats during the first few days and no pads until days 3-5.  It’s also strongly recommended that an athletic trainer be on site during and after all practices.

If you have a son participating in football practices, ask him if the coaches are following these guidelines.

External heat stroke is the leading cause of preventable death in high-school athletics, and more than 9,000 high-school athletes are treated for exertional heat illness each year, according to the latest statistics available.  And football players are 11 times more likely to suffer heat-related illnesses than all other high-school sports combined.

Football practices must necessarily be held in the hottest month of the year in Arizona.  And to make things worse, the opening game of the season has been gradually moved up into August in recent years, when temperatures generally are still above the century mark.

But the important thing to note is that heat illnesses are preventable.  It just take a little common sense.

A writer in The Oklahoman sports department a couple of years ago laid out a simple plan for high-school athletes to help avoid the devastating effects of too much heat:

“When you’re thirsty, drink some water.  When you’re not thirsty, drink some water.  When you get home from practice, drink some water.  When you get finished drinking water…drink some water!