Heat Stroke in High School Football
At my high school, the football players called them “three-a-day”s. Three-a-days were a grueling regimen of three practices a day for high school football players. Since off-season practice began in summer, the players often practiced heat over 90 degrees. For larger football players – the linemen, in particular – the massive amount of body weight they carry requires intense conditioning to utilize it to stop opponents from getting to the quarterback. The helmets they wore were necessary for protection, but not very breathable. And the culture, especially for those competing for a spot on the team, was intense. No one wanted to give up. What the coaches barked at them to do, they did with their whole heart and body. Sometimes, this kind of conditioning ended tragically by a variety of conditions but often heat stroke.
Sometimes, this kind of conditioning, unfortunately, ends tragically: often by heat stroke.
Heat stroke is a preventable condition and the limit of summer football practice been a long-standing issue for high-schoolers. Yet, it still occurs.
As far back as 2009, The National Athletic Trainers’ Association released protocols for helping athletes acclimate to the heat. The guidelines were developed by an inter-association task force, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American College of Sports Medicine, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and others.
Between 1980 and 2015, there were 44 exertional heat stroke-related deaths during preseason high school football practices. This alarmed organizations enough that create the guidelines.
Signs of heat stroke include:
- Hot, dry skin or profuse sweating
- Throbbing headache
- High body temperature
- Slurred speech
Perhaps the most prominent tragedy to bring this issue to national attention is the death of NFL player Korey Stringer. Stringer died from complications suffering from the heat. In fact, there now is an institute at The University of Connecticut named after Stringer devoted to raising awareness of heat stroke.
The effect concussions have on football are receiving ongoing research and scrutiny. Thankfully, heat stroke seems to be another dangerous condition football coaches and administration are taking seriously.
Long gone are the days of the “three-a-days”s. However, in a sport that values toughness, where playing through pain at all costs is the culture, it’s crucial to remember what this national sport really is: a game. It shouldn’t be a war of growing casualties. It’s not worth giving up your life.
- Reporter, Don RaufHealthDay. ‘Guidelines Stop Heat Stroke Deaths in High School Athletes’. June 23, 2016. Accessed June 26, 2016. http://bismarcktribune.com/lifestyles/health-med-fit/guidelines-stop-heat-stroke-deaths-in-high-school-athletes/article_dc710adc-95b6-58e6-8c08-70b16db6a44b.html.
- Accessed June 26, 2016. http://edition.cnn.com/2015/10/09/football/high-school-football-deaths/.
- ‘Heat Acclimatization Policies’. Accessed June 26, 2016. http://ksi.uconn.edu/high-school-state-policies/heat-acclimatization-policies/.