Football teams are usually driven indoors by inclement weather when the season slips into winter, not during the summer sunshine. But in 2019, widespread heat is forcing new adjustments.
As heat waves extend across America, football programs in a variety of states across the south, midwest and west coast are moving their early training camp practices indoors or dramatically adjusting outdoor plans to minimize the risk of heat stroke or other forms of heat illness. Among the states where changes are unfolding:
— Heat indexes with temperatures north of 100 degrees have teams in Tennessee playing inside instead of planned training camp workouts, per the Nashville Tennessean.
— Alabama schools are keeping athletic trainers on site during practices, with at least one moving practices to their school’s baseball field so they can utilize the dugout for shade, according to Birmingham Fox affiliate WBRC.
— In other parts of Alabama, both football teams and marching bands were limiting outdoor practice time and cutting down on routines to limit exposure to heat above 100 degrees, reported Huntsville ABC affiliate WAAY.
— In Oklahoma, teams were moving walkthroughs and team meetings to all earlier, more humid time windows to minimize heat in late afternoon and evenings, all while keeping cold tubs underneath stadium bleachers, reported The Oklahoman.
— Programs in North Florida are dramatically increasing the frequency of water breaks, keeping cold tubs ready on site and bracing for football kickoffs to be pushed back when temperatures reach above 90 degrees. That’s according to the Jacksonville news station WJXT.
— Kentucky high schools are utilizing hydrometers to monitor players’ hydration levels while using ice towels and on-site ice baths, per ABC affiliate WHAS.
— And in Texas, teams are starting outdoor workouts at 6 a.m., if not earlier, to avoid the worst of the crushing heat, reported Wichita Falls CBS affiliate KAUZ.
Naturally, these adjustments are just some of the ways different programs are approaching the very modern, global warming-era dilemma of annual dangerous heat indexes precisely as football practice ramps up. The diminished practice time in pads, or even outdoors, raises other questions about teams’ preparedness to begin the season in late August.
There’s no changing that now, though the more these developments persist in years ahead, the more questions will be raised about whether calendar changes to the football season across much of the country are needed.
After all, if Alaska kicks off its season in early August to avoid sometimes dangerous November winter temperatures, shouldn’t schools in Texas, Florida and Arizona shift their seasons later to avoid potentially deadly summer heat waves?