As high school football practice kicks off across the country, coaches and trainers are feeling heat to keep players cool. There has already been one death on the college playing field this summer, and last year, three high school players in three states died from heat related illness. Tragedies that have prompted a push for change on the high school practice field.
The pre-season football practice, a ritual sports medicine experts warn - can have deadly consequences when played out under the scorching summer sun.
"Since 1995 we've had 24 heat stroke deaths, in last year 2004 there were
3 high school heat deaths," says Fred Mueller, Phd, Sports Medicine Researcher.
Fred Mueller, directs the American Football Coaches' Committee on Football Injuries, and says summer practices could be made safer by avoiding practice in the heat of the day and having players step on the scales.
"Weigh out after practice weigh in the next morning before practice if they are 3 percent or more body weight loss don't let them practice until they gain that weight back," says Fred Mueller.
The American College of Sports Medicine is calling for shorter practices, and no full uniforms or full contact during the first several days. And while there have been improvements, Dr. Mueller says he is urging parents to ask questions.
"What are they going to wear, what kind of breaks are they going to have are they going to have cold water available medical emergencies out there trainers out there - all those things are really important and parents should know," adds Dr. Mueller
The bottom line say experts, in this tough it out sport - no player is tougher than mother nature.
Sports medicine experts say that tough it out attitude is one of the biggest safety hurdles facing high school football. They say players should be encouraged to tell coaches or trainers if they do not feel good, and should not be made to feel weak.