Jan 29, 2015
Georgia Heat Rules Paying Off

By Patrick Bohn

Heightened concern over heat-related illnesses has prompted changes in several states’ practice policies for football players. One such state is Georgia, where changes put into effect this year are prompting some schools to use new techniques to keep players cool. The policy was praised by one head coach who had a player hospitalized due to heat illness after practice.
The new rules were the result of findings produced by a three-year study commissioned by the Georgia High School Association and conducted by a pair of researchers at the University of Georgia. Based on the study’s results, the GHSA produced guidelines for rest, activity, and preventative measures based on various wet bulb globe temperature readings, as well as general guidelines for hydration and rest breaks. Additionally, the policy stated that schools which violate the policy can be fined $1,000.

One of those guidelines requires that cold immersion tubs be available at practices when the wet bulb globe temperature is above 86 degrees. This preseason, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that the presence of a cold immersion tub may have helped a Pickens High School football player who was hospitalized after a practice.

The player, whose name was not released, began feeling ill at the end of an early-August practice, and was placed in a cold immersion tub immediately. He was taken to the hospital later after experiencing cramps, but Pickens Head Coach Chris Parker says the new policy is making a difference.

“The things they’re doing with the temperature guidelines, it’s good,” Parker told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “It holds people accountable. We’re much more educated on how to handle those things. When most of us first started coaching, we didn’t know any better.”

Colquitt High is taking the safety of players a step further, utilizing a mobile athletic training room with an insulated roof and air conditioning, to keep players cool in the heat. The room, which is 7×14 feet, was given to the school from the Colquitt Regional Medical Center and will be present at all the team’s road games this season. It will also be used by the tennis, soccer, softball, and baseball teams.

“We’ll have gotten our money’s worth if we can keep one kid from having a heat stroke,” Colquitt County High Athletic Trainer Ryan Kebler told the Moultrie Observer. “I think it helps take us to the next level.”

Kebler was the subject of a Q&A in the September 2011 issue of Training & Conditioning.

While risks due to heat illness can never be eliminated, coaches and athletic trainers are in agreement that these moves are a step in the right direction. And with them, Georgia became the latest state to try and keep its student-athletes safe as the August heat rolls on.

Patrick Bohn is an Assistant Editor at Training & Conditioning

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