Twenty-one NCAA football players have died during conditioning workouts during the past 12 years. Each summer also brings stories of high school athletes having physical problems during summer workouts.
As temperatures in many states soar to over 100 degrees with high humidity, it is once again important to remember that there are common sense guidelines that coaches and support staff should follow when supervising workouts in extreme weather conditions.
A group at the annual meeting of the National Athletic Trainers Association (NATA) has just released new guidelines aimed at preventing sudden, heat-related injuries and deaths. These guidelines are based on proven ideas that incorporate common sense into summer workouts. These guidelines can be summarized in the following list:
- Acclimate progressively to promote safety.
- Introduce new conditioning activities gradually.
- Do not use exercise and conditioning activities as punishment.
- Ensure proper education, experience and credentialing of strength and conditioning coaches.
- Adequately develop and implement effective and safe program.
- Provide appropriate medical coverage.
- Trained persons should be present during all training sessions.
- Develop and practice emergency assistance plans.
- Know what to do during a medical emergency. Know where treatment equipment is and who will use it during an emergency.
- Be cognizant of medical conditions of athletes.
- Properly administer strength and conditioning programs.
- Strength and conditioning staff and medical staff should regularly meet and go over planned activities and make each other aware of special situations.
- Partner with recognized professional organizations.
- Regularly review best practices and areas to improve in.
- Provide adequate continuing education for the entire coaching and medical teams.
Youth coaches and league administrators should also be aware of these guidelines. It is particularly important to practice moderations when practices or workouts first begin for a new season. Young people today often spend much of their leisure time indoors. They are not regularly engaging in strenuous physical activity and spend much of their time in air conditioned environments. Care must be taken when these individuals are just beginning to work out and practice for upcoming competitive seasons.
Special care must be taken to ensure that athletes practicing and working out in hot, humid conditions properly hydrate. The days are long gone when it was considered a sign of weakness when an athlete would stop during practice and drink water.
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