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July 14, 2004

Heat-Related Football Injuries In The Spotlight

FROM THE SOMETIMES SUFFOCATING RIGORS OF SUMMER FOOTBALL PRACTICE comes word of some enlightened attitudes to protect student-athletes from the deadly danger of heat stroke.

The combination of helmets, pads, heat, humidity, blaring sun, two-a-days, insufficient water and inadequate rest periods has proven more than just brutal for hundreds of football players. And when the above factors are endured by 250 and 300 pounders the consequences can be quite deadly.

There have been almost two dozen heat-related deaths over the past 8 years (and many have resulted in high-profile lawsuits).

No other sport even approaches the burly macho brutal manliness of football. The peripheral attractions of male camaraderie and the big-man-on-campus status are often profoundly attractive enticements that trigger a lifetime of discipline and can-do spirit.

This is all well and good, but sometimes the macho attitude adopted by drill sergeant-like coaches can lead to a dangerous one-upsmanship that leads to disaster. Some coaches are still of the mentality that the early practices are the time to inflict boot camp-like excesses of mind and body.

Last year the NCAA stepped in with rules stipulating that the first five days of single-session practice must be with no pads. Further, a restriction was made that there could not be two-a-day practices on successive days.

General guidelines to minimize heat stroke include:

• Players should be acclimatized slowly during the first week of practice.

• Coaches should always be aware of temperature and humidity.

• There should be plenty of water and frequent rest periods in shaded areas.

• Extra consideration must be given when pads and helmets are being worn.

What with the arms race raging continuously, how far are we away from climate controlled practice facilities for all major programs?

(this 289 word excerpt—with attendant commentary—was extracted from a 1143 word article in the July 2004 issue of Athletic Business)