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Heat changes practice schedules
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Practice in full uniforms began for Liberty County High and Bradwell Institute football teams Tuesday and an issue more troubling than the condition of the players was the heat. With temperatures and heat indexes hitting record highs all week, the coaches had to change standard practice procedures.
"We started around 7 p.m. the last few nights," Bradwell coach Aaron Mock said.
The same scenario took place at LCHS. High temperatures and heat index delayed both high school teams from wearing full gear during drills and practice. Both teams worked primarily in shorts, helmets and pads.
The board of education has a heat policy in place and schools all follow the guidelines of the county and the Georgia High School Association.
Last year the GHSA implemented tougher standards of practice for student athletes, cheerleaders, band players and others who participate in activity outdoors where heat exposure was a concern.
In 2007 heat stroke was the main cause of death for two high school football players. Along with the two confirmed fatal cases last year, there was one other death of a high school player that might have been due to heat stroke, but no autopsy was performed. This compares to five heat stroke deaths in 2006. In the past decade, there have been only two years when no such deaths were recorded: 2002 and 2003 according to reports released by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and researcher Frederick O. Mueller, PhD, professor of exercise and sports science in the College of Arts and Sciences.
Mueller released the report to provide guidelines athletic directors at the college and high school level should take to reduce the preventable deaths due to heat related illness.
Mueller's report offers the following advice for helping prevent heat-related deaths:
Require each athlete to have a physical and know if an athlete has a history of heat-related illness; such players are more susceptible to heat stroke. Overweight players are also at higher risk.
Acclimatize players to the heat slowly
Alter practice schedules to avoid long workouts in high-humidity.
Provide cold water before, during and after practice in unlimited quantities.
Provide shaded rest areas with circulating air; remove helmets and loosen or remove jerseys.
Athletes should weigh in each day before and after practice and their weight charts should be checked in order to treat any who lose excessive weight each day. Generally, a three percent loss in body weight through sweating is safe; five percent is in the danger zone.
Know the symptoms of heat illness: nausea, incoherence, fatigue, weakness, vomiting, muscle cramps, weak rapid pulse and visual disturbance. Contrary to popular belief, heat stroke victims may sweat profusely.
Have an emergency plan in place.
Parents should inquire about emergency plans for their children's teams.
The Bradwell Tigers and the Liberty County Panthers have altered their practice to fit the current guidelines and are constantly monitoring the heat index with precision measuring instruments that allows them to alter their practice based on immediate readings. Both schools are preparing for their first scrimmage but understand the importance of keeping their athletes safe and are taking things slow.
The Tigers will scrimmage at home at 7 p.m. on Aug. 15 against Statesboro. The Panthers will travel to Wayne County for a 7 p.m. scrimmage on Aug. 22.


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