Area coaches are heat stroke conscious

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 15, 2006

The start of high school football practice means the 2006 football season is just around the corner. It also means sweltering Alabama temperatures on the practice field.

The National Federation of State High School Association says due to the equipment and uniform needed in football, most of the heat problems have been associated with football, verses other fall sports.

From 1995 to the 2005 season, the NFSHSA said schools have reported 19 high school heat-stroke related deaths from football nationwide.

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The NFSHSA advocates that proper precautions must be taken.

Athletes are subject to heat cramps, heat fatigue, water depletion and salt depletion, as well as heat stroke during hot weather conditions.

Heat stroke death is not a common outcome of a football practice, but it happens often enough that sports experts says anyone who’s involved with the sport needs to be aware of the danger, how to minimize it, and what to do if players suffer heat stroke in spite of precautions.

“We condition our kids to the heat throughout the summer,” said Demopolis High School coach Doug Goodwin.

“We constantly preach to the players to stay hydrated when not at practice. But we take breaks every 15 to 20 minutes during practice.”

A.L. Johnson High School conducts their practice around the heat.

“We stay in to work with the weights during the early part of our practice,” said coach Moses Jones. “We then go through our sprints, work on our kicking game, then hang around the water cooler for about 15 minutes before we hit the practice field.”

The NFSHSA added that the main problem associated with exercising in hot weather is the water loss through sweating. Water loss is best replaced by allowing the athlete to unrestricted access to water, the association said.

Water breaks two or three times every hour are better than one break an hour.

NFSHSA says that the best method is to have water available at all times and allow the athlete to drink water whenever he needs it. Never restrict the amount of water an athlete drinks, the association reports.

The small amounts of salt lost in sweat are adequately replaced by salting food at meals.