Your kid wants to make his high school football team. He wants one of those coveted spots. He wants the Varsity jersey. And he’s willing to do just about anything to get it: Double practices in the summer heat, multiple drills without rest and declining water during water breaks.
The number of heat-related deaths on the sports field is on the rise. During the 1980s it was still a pretty rare occurrence to hear about a young high student athlete dying from hyperthermia (overheating) during a sports practice. The average was about one death a year in the United States. But now every year about three families are devastated by the loss of a young person due to heat stroke.
The issue has the attention of state lawmakers. Maryland is the latest state putting in place new preseason-practice heat acclimatization policies. A new law takes effect July 1st sponsored by Maryland Delegate Jay Walker. It requires county boards of education develop new player safety rules by the end of this month.
Walker’s name may sound familiar to sports fans. He’s a former NFL player who played for the Minnesota Vikings. He watched his good friend Pro Bowl lineman Korey Stringer die during training camp In August 2011.
In an article, Walker told the Gazette.Net “One of my friends died on the football field…You look back on it and you realize [heat acclimatization rules] are worth it. You need someone in the position of authority that can relate.”
Georgia, Connecticut, New Jersey, Texas and North Carolina have already adopted recommendations from the National Athletic Trainers’ Assocation (NATA).
Among the guidelines:
- For the first 5 days during the preseason practice athletes should not participate in more than 1 practice per day.
- Total practice should not exceed 3 hours during the first 14 days of preseason practice (heat acclimatization period)
- Double practices are allowed after the 6th day during this period, but they shouldn’t total more than 5 hours of practice.
- If there’s inclement weather or heat restrictions, the practice should be stopped until weather conditions are deemed safe.
- An athletic trainer should be on site before, during and after all practices.
These guidelines would apply not just to football, but other sports including field hockey and volleyball.
But some coaches are pushing back – raising concerns that the new rules will mean decreased practice time, which could lead to more injuries.
What do you think should more states adopt new rules limiting preseason sports practices during the hottest months?