Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Why fight the heat?

This past Saturday I got a small taste of what most of you have been going through for the last couple of weeks: high school football in the heat.

Honestly, I got lucky. The school I was covering made a great call and scheduled the scrimmages from 8:30 am to noon. We were even lucky enough for an occasional cloud to block the sun!

Even with good scheduling and a break from some clouds, the actual temperature was still just below 100 degrees. The coaches scheduled plenty of water breaks, constantly reminded the players to get water, and had obviously educated the players on the importance of staying hydrated.

So, there I am, at a school who has taken the recommended precautions to reduce the likelihood of heat illness but I can’t help but think we are still doing it wrong. Physiology tells us that the human body is not designed to function in hot environments, much less function in extreme heat wearing a helmet and full pads. Unfortunately, athletes die every year and remind us of this very fact.

So why are we still doing it?

I get it, we love football; but, from my viewpoint, it seems as though we could make some changes that would protect the athletes (and coaches) from heat illness.

The most obvious: start practice later in the year. Why do we start playing football in August? How about moving the season back a few weeks?

I understand that a champion needs to be crowned before Christmas. This can still be accomplished if we take fewer teams to the playoffs. What happened to only the district champion going to playoffs?

I think we let way too many teams go to the playoffs anyway.

Why not reduce that number and shave a few weeks off the season? A champion could be crowned and we could all avoid the dangerous heat for a few more weeks. Coaches may not want to give up two a days but that would be a small price to pay to say lives.

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