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It’s that time of year again……High School Football season! July 31st marks the first day of high school football pre season training in South Carolina. Hopefully, our student athletes have had a fun and safe summer, but now that the summer is over we find out how prepared they are for the upcoming season.
All high school football programs have a different policy for summer training. Some make it mandatory to participate in a strength and conditioning program run by the coaches. Some trust their student athletes to train on their own. When the football players report to the first day of practice, some will be in the best shape of their lives, some will not. It’s likely to be very hot and very humid. In order to protect the athletes, coaching and sports medicine staffs have to account for the varying levels of fitness and prepare for the worst. One way to do that is by setting a practice schedule that allows all players to acclimatize to the heat.
Allowing athletes to acclimatize to the heat, prepares their bodies to physical exertion in high heat and humidity. This helps protect them from the varying stages of heat illness. Acclimatizing is a gradual increase of time and exertion in the heat. Practices start with the football players wearing helmets, shirts, and shorts only. Gradually, they add equipment until they are in full pads. They also increase the time spent in the heat gradually.
Currently, there are only a handful of states that have mandates requiring heat acclimatization. Some states do have guidelines and some states high school governing bodies have rules. In South Carolina, teams follow a 14 practice schedule. On practice day 1, they are limited to 3 hours in helmets, shirts, and shorts. They gradually increase to full gear on day 14.
While we all want our student athletes to be able to relax and have fun over the summer, reporting to fall practice out of shape can be dangerous. Not only does proper fitness increase their performance, but it also decreases an athlete’s chances of suffering a heat illness episode. So encourage all your student athletes to have fun and stay in shape over the summer!