Heat is a killer, and three deaths believed to be heat-related in South Carolina, Georgia and Florida this month alone have awareness high across the South as high school football season kicks off tonight across the state in Week Zero contests.
The death of 14-year-old Chaquantei Qualiq Fowler on the track at Broome High School in Spartanburg on Wednesday afternoon comes on the heels of two other deaths this month alone related to heat.
The medical term for heat-related illness is hyperthermia, and every year approximately 3.8 football players in America die as a result of heat-related illness according to a May 2013 issue of the American Journal of Sports Medicine and a 10-year study by the National Center for Catastrophic Sports Injury. Since 1995, 52 football players at all levels have died as a result of a heat stroke, with the majority of those fatalities — 41 — involving high schoolers.
On Aug. 13, 14-year-old William Shogran of Florida died following football camp from what was believed to be hyperthermia, and two days earlier on Aug. 11, 17-year-old Zyrees Oliver of Georgia died five days after collapsing at his home hours after he came home from football practice and over-hydrated, drinking two gallons of water and two gallons of Gatorade.
Lexington High School football coach Josh Stepp said the heat that’s plagued the Midlands this week is a constant source of concern and attention. He also said the news of the death in Georgia due to over-hydration was equally chilling to those in his profession.
“It’s a fine line you have to walk between hydration and over-hydration,” Stepp said.” We’re fortunate to have three certified trainers here every day, have water set up all over the field ans take water breaks about every 10 minutes.
“We always watch for the signs of overheating before, during and after practice. We pay attention all through the process.”
Just a few miles away in Lexington County, organizers of this weekend’s Battle on the Bluff at River Bluff High School have taken notice. Featuring 10 statewide teams, including defending Class 4A state champion Dutch Fork, the Week Zero extravaganza was scheduled to take place over two days beginning Friday.
But with temperatures hitting the triple digits and a heat index even higher this week, River Bluff administrators took the preventive action of rescheduling games to avoid the heat of the day.
The weekend’s first game, Pelion v. Cardinal Newman, was moved from 5 p.m. Friday to 7:30 p.m. tonight (Thursday). An afternoon bout scheduled for 2 p.m. Saturday between Aynor and Gilbert was moved to Friday at 5 p.m.
The rest of the games will proceed as scheduled (Dutch Fork v. Greenwood 8 p.m. Friday and Fort Mill v. White Knoll 5 p.m. Saturday followed by the event’s concluding game, host River Bluff v. Westwood at 8 p.m.).
Experts urge caution at all times when exerting oneself in dangerous heat conditions and erring on the side of safety when early symptoms of hyperthermia such as nausea, dizziness or headaches appear. Advanced symptoms include an inability to perspire, causing the skin to feel hot and dry, and a bluish or pale skin color as a result of a decrease in blood pressure.