The months of June, July, and August mark the peak season of summer workouts for athletes around the country. For three straight months student-athletes train their bodies to be in top physical condition for the upcoming fall season of sports. Coincidentally these three months also fall into line with the midsummer heat that Americans have come accustomed to. This past week and weekend saw temperatures reach near record highs across the Southeast. In Atlanta, temperatures on Friday and Saturday reached 105 and 103 respectively with seemingly no relief from the heat even in the early morning hours when summer conditioning workouts tend to take place.
Coaches, specifically football, preach to their teams that success on the playing field starts with a foundation of work that begins well before the game schedule commences. This foundation of work usually means hours of conditioning and weight training workouts in the morning hours Monday through Friday. The record temperatures that the Southeast has been dealing with should be a cautionary reminder to strength, conditioning, and football coaches that they need to constantly reevaluate their athlete’s workouts to fall in line with the weather and threat of heat related injuries. According to the National Athletic Trainers Association, every conditioning coach should be required to “have knowledge of health and safety issues; certified in first aid, resuscitation and heart defibrillation; know which athletes have sickle cell trait; and know how to recognize signs and treat exercise-related complications from the condition. And they should be present during all condition sessions."
However, the onus of injury should not simply be placed on the coaches; the student-athletes themselves need to be educated on the warning signs that can lead to injury and even death from the heat. If one is feeling light headed, dizzy, or over heated there should be no shame in speaking up and taking a break from an exhaustive workout. Less than one year ago, two high school athletes from Georgia died within hours of each other due to heat exhaustion and heat stroke. One of the athletes, 17-year old Forrest Jones of Locust Grove High School, died at a voluntary team workout in preparation for the upcoming football season. His family was quoted as saying: “his determination may have cost him his life,” and had a message for other student-athletes: “If you feel like you're tired or thirsty, tell your coach you gotta take a break, you gotta sit down… When you think it can’t happen to you or your family, it really can.” Without proper education for coaches and athletes alike, devastating tragedies like this are always a real threat. Due to the threat of heat related injuries, the Georgia High School Organization does not allow mandatory team workouts until after August 1. However, that does not stop coaches from holding voluntary workouts that athletes can attend. In short, the safety of student-athletes should be paramount in the minds of coaches around the country, specifically when dangerous temperatures loom.
For sources and further reading on the threat of heat related injuries see: