GAITHERSBURG, Md. (WUSA)– While high school football players tackle each other during their first 2012 season practices, Maryland officials are tackling the issue of players’ safety in sweltering August heat.
Many student athletes are coming into a new year with new safety guidelines.
“First off, the idea of a two-a-day practice as we know it is almost obsolete,” Dr. William G. Beattie of Montgomery County Schools described the new heat acclimatization guidelines for student-athletes in Maryland. “Schools cannot practice twice a day on the same day until the sixth day of practice. This is a huge significance.”
Imagine running back and forward with pads on in the scorching summer sun. With the new policies in place, players would be able to cool down with a walkthrough consisting of no equipment and running.
“Students in general, left to their own devices, do not hydrate properly,” Dr. Beatties said. She adds, “They don’t drink the right fluids and they don’t drink enough of them.”
Starting this year in Montgomery County, coaches would have to show players a presentation on safety, including hydration, before hitting the field and ways to avoid the drug resistant skin infection called MRSA.
“Appropriate hygiene, washing of uniforms in a consistent fashion, cleaning of cuts, and reporting of cuts that don’t seem to go away,” Dr. Beattie said.
According to research from the University of North Carolina’s Catastrophic Sports Injury Research Department’s 29th annual report, during the past 10 years there have been 30 heat-related deaths in college and high school football.
Jason Stinson, a coach in Louisville faced reckless homicide charges in the death of Max Gilpin, 15, after collapsing at football practice from a heatstroke in 2008.
Stinson was found not guilty, but parents raised concerns about the lives lost to heat exhaustion in recent years.
Closer to home, Edwin “Dek” Miller, 16, of Germantown, died in 2009 possibly from a heat-related illness days after he collapsed during voluntary workouts at Northwest High School in Maryland.
The Maryland General Assembly, Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association (MPSSAA) and the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) have released the mandated model policy regarding preseason practice heat acclimatization for student-athletes.
This model will help each school system in its creation of local risk-reducing policies.
Virginia has fall practice guidelines for heat acclimatization and the District doesn’t, according to the University of Connecticut’s Korey Stringer Institute which tracks heat acclimatization guidelines by state.