2011 – A Deadly Record

When it comes to heat-related deaths, 2011 has set a record according to USA Today.  During this summer’s record heat wave, six high school football players and one coahc have died. 

Cause has not been determined in all cases.  But if heat is a factor, this would be more than double the annual death rate in recent years.  And recent years have not been anything to be proud of.

In the fifty years from 1960 to 2009, 123 high school players died from heat-related illness.  The average up until 1984 was about one per year.  But, in the next 15 years, the death rate almost tripled to 2.8 fatalities per year. 

Why?  High school athletes have gotten bigger, practices have gotten more intense, and temperatures are higher than in previous years.  The 300 pound high school football player is a common fixture on any campus anywhere today.  These bodies generate more heat.  They have more body fat, making it more difficult to release heat.  In many cases, these oversized athletes are less physically fit.  Add to these factors the lack of medical staff at many high schools and 4-6 hours of practice in the heat.  These are the ingredients for a perfect storm of heat-related illness and death.

Heat Stroke Death is Preventable

Heat stroke illness and death is extremely preventable.  It requires:

  • Being able to bring down the core temperature quickly
  • Preventing the opportunity for heat stroke to begin with.

Most heat related illness and death occurs during the first days of practice for a sport.  Regardless of the sport, players are not used to the heat and are not properly hydrated.  Shorter practices without equipment at the beginning of any season dramatically reduces the risk of heat stroke and death.

The following is a video about a popular high school coach who collapsed 2 hours into the team’s first practice in Plan, Texas.

 You need to a flashplayer enabled browser to view this YouTube video

Young athletes today do all their training, and living, in air conditioning.  Whether it is cardiovascular conditioning or weight training, these activities occur in an air-conditioned environment.  They are simply not adjusted to the heat that assaults them as they practice full speed outdoors.

Certified Athletic Trainers Needed

Certified athletic trainers are a scarcity on high school campuses.  While most schools have full-time coaches for every sport, less than half of high schools have a trainer on staff.  The focus of the coach is on coaching.  He or she has neither the training or attention to the health of the athletes that is required. 

Extertional heat stroke, high intensity effort, and low cardiovascular strength is a deadly combination.  Exertion and low cardio strength results in the body storing heat.

 You need to a flashplayer enabled browser to view this YouTube video

Filed under: Sports Conditioning

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