Unless you’re a fan of 1980s television, what I’m about to say won’t make much sense.
When I think about afternoon football practices in soaring temperatures that come with even higher heat indexes, I remember the opening sequence of “Hill Street Blues.”
Before sending patrolmen out each day, Sgt. Phil Esterhaus would say, “Hey, hey ... let’s be careful out there.”
Football practices in August and September should start with a cautionary message. The message should be given to cross country runners, swimmers and volleyball players, too.
The fact that three high school football players - two in Georgia and one in Arkansas - have died in recent days is a powerful reminder. Yes, football may be considered child’s play, but workouts in the heat and humidity are not.
Thank goodness we have evolved past the days when coaches wouldn’t allow players to drink fluids during practice. I’m also thankful that summer seven-on-seven drills give coaches and players a chance to get acclimated to the heat.
When it comes to practices in the heat, knowledge is the best weapon coaches, athletic trainers and athletes can use.
“To be honest with you, the heat we’re having scares me as much as anything we deal with,” Zachary High athletic trainer Sean Stanton said.
Stanton said he had to send two players to the hospital to receive intravenous fluids because of heat stress at the Broncos preseason camp.
As the Broncos settled into a routine last week, Stanton worked with ZHS coach Neil Weiner on a schedule that includes multiple breaks and shorter work periods.
Along with providing fluids and ice towels for players to use on the field, Stanton stresses that each player should drink 16 ounces of fluid per hour each day.
In other words, never pass up a water fountain and always have water or a sports drink on hand when at all possible.
Teams that practice on their artificial turf playing field like Zachary and Parkview Baptist made added adjustments by moving morning practices up to as early as 8 a.m. and pushing afternoon practices back to 5:30 p.m. or 6 p.m.
Parkview also does something that colleges often do. Players are weighed before and after practice. Players showing excessive weight loss of more than six to eight pounds are monitored. They are required to drink added fluids and eat potassium-rich snacks, like bananas.
I had several coaches tell me they opted to cut practices short last week because of the heat. One coach eliminated two practice periods and said, “It was just too hot and if we’d have continued to practice, it wouldn’t have been productive anyway.”
Wise choice, I think.
Stanton reminds parents that getting an athlete acclimated to the heat should be a gradual process and it takes between seven and 10 days.
It is also important for parents and athletes to do their part. If an athlete has been sick or is on medication for an illness, the coach and athletic trainer should be informed. That way, the coaches can monitor the player and alter his/her practice schedule.
Stanton and other athletic trainers stress that athletes should drink 16 ounce of fluid per hour until they go to bed.
Meals should feature lean meats, vegetables and fruits. Fried food and food that contains excess grease should NOT be on the menu.
Of course, these precautions may not eliminate all heat-related illnesses. Each individual case is different. But the odds sure are better.