Last August, three teens died in high school football camps from heat exhaustion.
As high school football preseasons kick off this week in the hot summer weather, the Korey Stringer Institute at the University of Connecticut is making sure teams and coaches country-wide are taking measures to avoid a repeat of the tragedy.
The institute is named after Minnesota Vikings offensive tackle Korey Stringer, who died of heat-related complications during NFL training camp 11 years ago.
KSI is partnered with the NFL and is one of the leading institutions studying athlete heat and hydration issues. Last year, the NFL adapted the National Athletic Trainers' Association guidelines for preseason heat acclimatization. It couldn't come at a better time, either, with this summer in the running to be the hottest summer on record.
According to AccuWeather.com Expert Senior Meteorologist Alex Sosnowski, hot weather in the West could limit school-related outdoor activities as the heat wave persists this week. The Inland Empire outside of the Los Angeles area could expect up to 110°F, and Salt Lake City, Utah, will be experiencing triple-digit temperatures, as well.
High schools in these cities should be mindful of the heat through the remainder of the week:
Phoenix, Ariz.: This week was off to a hot start, with no relief coming anytime soon. Temperatures are forecast to be at least 110°F through the weekend.
Denver, Colo.: Mid- to high-90s are expected for the rest of the week, with RealFeel bringing it to the triple-digits.
Oklahoma City, Okla.: The heat waves bringing triple-digit and record-breaking temperatures unfortunately aren't going anywhere.
Boise, Idaho: There is still little rain relief for this state in severe drought. Triple-digits will remain throughout the week.
Billings, Mont.: It's thousands of miles farther north, but still hotter than many cities in the South. Fires also continue to threaten the area.
Washington, D.C.: Though the rest of the East will enjoy relatively cooler temperatures, hot and humid days will hit the country's capital for the remainder of the week.
Rebecca Stearns, KSI's director of education and vice president of operations, said the highest risk for heat illness happens in the first two weeks of team training, or during preseason. NATA's guidelines are meant to gradually increase players' heat tolerance.
"There's a whole myriad of beneficial and physical changes when you allow your body to adapt to the heat," she said.
Indianapolis Colts linebacker Pat Angerer gets relief from the heat with a cold towel during training camp in Anderson, Ind., last August. (AP photo/Michael Conroy)
The number of heat-related deaths has nearly tripled over the last 15 years in high school sports, according to University of Georgia Climatologist Andrew Grundstein.
Nevertheless, in one week, thousands of 14- to 18-year-old boys across the country will gear up their heavy padding and helmets for the start of football season.
Stearns said high school sports are especially dangerous because they don't receive the top-notch medical attention that college and professional sports usually have.
"Less than 50 percent of high schools have certified athletic trainers on site, so the warning signs for heat illness can go unrecognized," Stearns said.
Only seven states are complying with NATA's guidelines, but Stearns said KSI is continuously working with high schools to adapt the measures.
Derrl Ohnheiser, heading into his 30th year as an athletic trainer, is no stranger to football in the heat. He works with the Rouse High School Raiders, a Class AAAA team in Leander, Texas, which is one of the states that has complied with the heat acclimatization guidelines.
Ohnheiser said that it's important for coaches to understand the need for these guidelines and for frequent breaks so players can hydrate and cool down. He added that football tends to be more hazardous than other sports because players' heavy equipment traps heat and prevents sweat evaporation.
"Helmets and shoulder pads restrict the body's natural cooling," he said.
Rouse High School hasn't seen any heat illness situations because the athletic training staff has been so conscious of it, he added. As per the guidelines, the players will only practice in shorts, t-shirts and a helmet during the first week of preseason, leaving their heavy shoulder pads and protective equipment behind while their bodies get used to the heat.
According to the NATA, signs of heat exhaustion include thirst, headache, dizziness, nausea, cramps, excessive fatigue and dry mouth. If experiencing these symptoms, athletes should be moved to a cool environment or into the shade immediately and rehydrate with an electrolyte-containing drink like Gatorade.
Some NFL teams will be bearing the heat burden more than others. While the Chargers will see low-70° temperatures in San Diego, these five teams will see some rough average temperatures and humidity throughout August.
Hottest NFL Training Camps
Houston Texans: Hopefully by now Texans players are used to taking the heat. August is full of triple-digit numbers for Houston - the monthly high is 109°F, with an average of 90.5°F.
New Orleans Saints: The forecast for the Saints will be anything but heavenly, as it's not expected to fall below 86°F for the entire month of August. The monthly high is 98°F, but swampy New Orleans humidity can make RealFeel temperatures up to 15° hotter.
Miami Dolphins: RealFeel strikes again for the Dolphins, with low-90°F temperatures in early August feeling like 108°F. The average morning humidity for August in Davie, Fl., where the Dolphins train, is 85 percent.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: It's almost 300 miles northwest of Miami, but the humidity just gets worse in Tampa. Average August temperatures around 85°F, but average morning humidity in August is 90 percent.
Atlanta Falcons: Temperatures are mostly mid-90's throughout the month. Combined with an 89-percent average humidity, though, the Falcons will see triple-digit RealFeels.
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