Two-a-day football practices are scheduled to start next week at high schools in the Houston area, and, as always, the oppressive heat is cause for concern.
Twenty-nine high school players nationally have died from heat stroke in the last 15 years, according to the Annual Survey of Football Injury Research, and the issue has become so serious that last year a coach in Kentucky was charged with reckless homicide after a 15-year-old player died after collapsing during practice. The coach is scheduled for trial in August.
"It's the traditional separate the men from the boys type of thing," Dave Csillan, an athletic trainer who worked on a task force the last couple years to come up with guidelines for practicing in the extreme heat, tells Hair Balls. "But these are adolescents under the direction of an adult, and in any other situation the adult would be held accountable."
The Dallas-based National Athletic Trainers' Association recently released its suggestions, based on the task force's findings, for "heat-acclimatization," which is "essential to minimize the risk or exertional heat illness during the preseason practice period," according to the report.
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If schools followed the guidelines, it would dramatically change the traditional two-a-day format for high schools. Only one practice a day is recommended for the first five days, and starting on the sixth day, any double-practice day should be followed by days with only one practice. There are a lot more recommendations, including what equipment should be worn, and when certain drills should be allowed.
"I've had a lot of coaches who are naysayers. They feel it's cutting into their practice times," Csillan says. "A lot of them say they've never had a problem before, and I tell them they need to go buy a lottery ticket because they're on a streak."
Csillan admits that mandating the guidelines is next to impossible, and even if they were, he says, it would be even harder to police.
"At least now we have some national guidelines out there, and coaches and school districts can be held accountable," he says. "And if there is an unfortunate event and a player goes down, all it would take is a saavy attorney to pick up on it, and I think we all know what the implications are."