By Darrell Moody
With the high school football season getting ready to start in early August, the National High School Federation has set up a free online course entitled "A Guide to Heat Acclimatization and Heat Illness Prevention".
The course is supposed to help coaches and players minimize the risk of suffering heat stroke while preparing for the upcoming season.
Tim Flannery, the director of coach education for the NFHS, said the information could help save lives.
"Heat stroke is the leading cause of preventable death in high school athletics," Flannery said in a recent release. "It results in thousand of emergency room visits and hospitalizations throughout the nation each year. Many times, death from heat strokes are preventable, and we believe this course can be just the tool that players, coaches and parents need to guard against serious illness or death.
"We are pleased to be able to offer this important course on heat illness free of charge. With more than 7.6 million participating in high school sports, minimizing the risk of serious illness is a top priority, and we believe this course will prevent unnecessary deaths from heat illness and strokes."
And, the NIAA is doing its part to combat the problem, too.
On June 28, Eddie Bonine, executive director of the NIAA, announced that he would allow football teams four extra days of practice, meaning schools could start Aug. 4 if they so desire.
During the four-day span, athletes may not participate in more than one
practice per day. According to the statement released by the NIAA, If the practice is interrupted by inclement weather or heat restrictions, the practice should recommence once conditions are deemed safe. Helmets and shoulder pads aren't allowed in that four-day span.
Even though the memo sent out to schools and the media said it only covered the 2012-13 school year, NIAA assistant director Jay Beesemyer believes it will become a permanent thing.
Beesemyer said the NIAA has no way of tracking past heat problems among student-athletes, but he hopes that eventually a system will be worked out that would enable the NIAA to collect data on heat acclimation issues and concussions.
The memo caught both Carson's Blair Roman and Dayton's Rob Turner by surprise. Considering many administrators are off for much of July, it's no surprise that the move caught the coaches by surprise. Roman said Carson will not work out the extra four days.
"This caught my coaching staff completely off guard," Roman said. "I didn't even know about it until Mr. Beck (Carson High principal) told me last week. Our staff was already scheduled to start on Aug. 9. We gave the kids that week off. We're starting on Aug. 9 because of the late notice.
"I hope they keep it around. If they do, we might not have to do so much (earlier) in the summer. We may end up taking advantage of it in the future."
Turner said he knew nothing about the decision.
"I'll always take extra practices," Turner said. "I think it's a great idea. I'm looking forward to it."
Both Roman and Turner said they haven't had any issues with the heat, and part of that is because in Nevada you get dry heat and don't have to deal with the humidity like players do in the East and Southeast. Also, it's rare that it gets over 100 very often in August.
"It's not 110 or 120 like it gets in Phoenix and Las Vegas," Roman said. "The key is hydration and giving them water breaks. We make sure we come into summer camp in tip-top shape and that helps us play without issues."
"I know it's a concern," Turner said. "We give them water breaks every 15 minutes."