This time of year, high school football teams around the nation, including the Cedar Grove Saints, begin their preseason workouts.
Players were doing drills on the field behind their suburban Atlanta high school on a sweltering, muggy morning as head coach John Adams offered advice and motivation.
This is a good squad; they have won four state championships in the last six years, and this past year, more former Saints were selected in the NFL Draft than at any other high school in the nation.
Adams was therefore anticipating the forthcoming season. But he also kept a close eye on their safety as they exercised in the sweltering heat of Atlanta.
It’s been so hot that it’s difficult for anyone, he remarked. But if you routinely work out in the heat, I believe you become accustomed to it.
Even on days when they are not in class or practising, he advises the pupils to drink adequate water. They pause more frequently. He also said that he keeps an eye on them throughout practise to ensure their well-being.
Football and the dangers of heat
Football players, whether they play in the NFL, college, or high school, begin working out in the hottest part of the year, sometimes on artificial turf fields that are baking in the sun. They cover themselves in layers of gear, and many of them, particularly the lineman, are large.
That might create a risky scenario.
58 football players nationwide passed away from heat-related illnesses between 1980 and 2009, according to research from the University of Georgia. They were mostly in high school.
The 2010 study indicated an increase in the frequency of football players passing away from heat-related causes. Georgia was one of the states with the highest number of high school football players who died from heat-related causes in the nation.
Georgia has nonetheless changed its course in the recent ten years. According to experts, it has defied the trend of an increase in the number of players experiencing heat illness. Additionally, other states wanting to safeguard student athletes from the heat have turned to the regulations put in place here as a model.
That is even more crucial now that temperatures and humidity are rising due to climate change.
Water bottles were all over the sideline at Cedar Grove’s practise, which was in the shadow. Adonijah Green, a 17-year-old defensive end, said athletes may get a drink whenever they need one. The team took five-minute water breaks together.
No water limitations exist, so we can hydrate whenever, he stated.
The players also didn’t yet had on their protective gear. They were becoming accustomed to working out in the heat, having fewer practises, having less contact (no tackling was permitted), and not having access to all of their equipment by the end of July.
Green stated, “With the pads, it gets hot, it becomes heavy.” It wears you out.
These regulations go beyond those at Cedar Grove. As teams start practising, the Georgia High School Association requires a five-day ramp-up period without pads.
Coaches cannot make athletes perform drills as a form of punishment, and athletes must be permitted to hydrate anytime they need to.
Teams must monitor the wet bulb globe temperature before and throughout practise in the warmer months of the year, which takes into account heat, humidity, and sun exposure. According to that reading, more frequent and longer rests are necessary, and in hot weather, teams must be ready to submerge a player in an ice bath if necessary.
No outside practise is allowed at all if the temperature rises even further. The wet bulb globe temperature must not exceed 92 degrees for any outside practise.
Prior to the Georgia High School Association adopting such regulations, roughly ten years ago, according to Bud Cooper, a clinical professor in the Department of Kinesiology at the University of Georgia who studies heat disease and athletes, schools were essentially free to do whatever they pleased.
But the association was prepared to alter after a high-profile high school football player died from heat-related causes.
Cooper declared, “There was obviously a problem.
Protecting student athletes
Based on their studies, he and other UGA specialists created the heat rules. Cooper admitted that he wasn’t sure how they would be received when they were presented to the high school association.
“Five coaches who had collectively coached for at least 35 or 40 years made up the rules committee. Consequently, those who have been around for a very long period, “added he.
But the rules, which apply to all high school sports, not just football, were accepted, according to him, after not much debate.
After the restrictions were put into place, Cooper and his colleagues conducted a follow-up research to ensure that they were effective.
In Georgia, high school football players have seen fewer heat-related illnesses and, in programmes that adhered to the guidelines, no heat-related fatalities.
For my part, it’s exciting, Cooper remarked. Nothing makes me happier than being able to say, as I sit here, “I’ve done some things that have saved lives.”
And not only in Georgia, says Becca Stearns, COO of the University of Connecticut’s Korey Stringer Institute, a project that investigates and promotes athlete safety and is named after a Minnesota Vikings player who passed away from heat stroke.
Georgia is one of the states that has had such a significant influence and shown such leadership in terms of heat safety and the laws passed in the state, according to Stearns.
Georgia stands out because its laws are founded on facts and analysis, according to Stearns. Georgia’s policy has been adapted by other states so that their student athletes are also protected.
Stearns claims that 30 states require some sort of heat-related policy. Twelve states base their regulations on the temperature of the wet bulb globe.
Stearns claimed that given the rise in temperature and humidity brought on by climate change, it is even more critical.
Another study by the UGA researchers indicates that four times as many days in the future may be too hot for safe outdoor exercise in Atlanta. There are additional rises in other cities across the nation.
In terms of possibly attempting to act now, before it becomes even more heated, Stearns said, “It’s absolutely a very important topic.” “We’re noticing a rise in the number of heat disease patients.”
Experts stress that heat stroke deaths can be avoided, but teams must be ready: they must be able to identify its signs and treat anyone experiencing them as soon as possible by cooling their bodies before taking them anywhere.
Stearns advised parents of young athletes to feel at ease inquiring about the state’s or school’s heat policies.
“Who is ultimately in charge of ensuring the health and safety of our high school athletes? Sad to say, there isn’t always an obvious solution “She spoke. “Without a lifeguard on duty, I would not leave my children at the pool. The same concept applies to this as well. Before you put your child off at a sports practise, you want to be sure those safeguards are in place.”
The secret, according to Coach Adams of Cedar Grove, is to plan ahead, be wise with practises, and constantly keep the pupils’ best interests in mind.
“They are young. So, you know, young people may occasionally try to tough it out. However, you must be savvy “said he. Football is not as significant as life is.