Just weeks ago, the River Bluff High School community was left devastating when a 14-year-old football player died just before his 15th birthday after collapsing in the school locker room. He’d just spent two hours and 15 minutes training outside in oppressive heat. The teen, standing 6-foot-2, was a defensive tackle in reportedly great health. Although the sophomore made it through practice, he started to stumble near the end, according to The State. He collapsed in the locker room, where his coaches gave him CPR and used a defibrillator. He was rushed to a nearby hospital and pronounced dead.
Although the autopsy results were inconclusive, some questioned whether proper safety protocol for outdoor practices were followed. At the least, the coroner opined that external environmental factors – namely heat and humidity – probably contributed to the stress caused by strenuous physical exertion. The school and coaches insist players are encouraged to let them know when they don’t feel well, to constantly drink water and sports drinks – both before and during practices – and to take rest breaks. Coaches, though, need to be mindful of the temperature, safety experts say, and take that into account when determining how hard to push their players.
On the day in question, school officials say coaches were in fact using a wet-bulb device. For those unfamiliar, it’s the same kind used by drill sergeants training U.S. Army recruits outdoors. The devices measure not just the temperature, but the humidity and the radiated heat from the surface and sun. These readings allow the sergeants – or in this case, coaches – to adjust the training schedule, making more allowances for water, shedding heavy equipment or clothing and more frequent rest breaks in the shade. When conditions are too severe, conditioning can be canceled. Continue reading