The Georgia High School Association is deeply saddened whenever a student dies, whether it be in an athletic situation or some other type of situation. We are devastated to have had two students die recently after their involvement in football workouts, and we are concerned about the well-being of our athletes in the days to come.
Privacy laws prevent us from discussing any medical information about these situations without the permission of the family. I can say, however, that the GHSA staff is gathering facts about these situations to evaluate whether our current standards for conducting practices are adequate. The GHSA is beginning the third year of a comprehensive, three-year study on heat illness and football participation that is being conducted around the state. This study is being conducted by Michael Ferrara at the University of Georgia, and is attempting to get scientific data on the relationship of heat and football activities in order to reduce the risk of heat illness during football workouts.
GHSA coaches have a great deal of information available to them about the importance of hydrating the players before, during and after workouts — and about modifying or canceling workouts when conditions warrant. Most even institute a practice of weighing players before and after practice to identify those who need more hydration. The sports medicine page contains information from various parts of the medical community about dealing with heat illness.
Please err on the side of caution and remember that GHSA By-law 2.67 sets the guidelines that our schools are to follow:
a) Each member school shall have a written policy for conducting practices in all sports during times of extremely high heat and/or humidity that will be signed by each head coach and distributed to all players. The policy shall include, but is not limited to:
(1) the time of day the practices are to be scheduled at various heat/humidity levels
(2) the ratio of workout time to time allotted for rest and hydration at various level of heat and humidity
(3) the heat/humidity levels that will result in outdoor practices being terminated
b) A scientifically approved instrument that measures the heat index must be utilized at each practice to ensure that the written policy is being followed properly.
c) Schools may determine the heat/humidity levels using either wet bulb globe temperature readings or head index readings.
It is important to understand that the GHSA only sets the beginning date that practices may occur in every sport. The decisions about when to begin those practices and how to schedule those practices are left to the professional judgment of coaches and administrators.
Swearing in is executive director of Georgia High School Association.