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College football teams battle heat-related illnesses

College football teams battle heat-related illnesses

College football teams battle heat-related illnesses
Photo Credit: Rick Couri
(Photo) University of Tulsa football practice field

College football teams battle heat-related illnesses

Being in the heat is something we all have to do.

But most of us aren’t doing more than running to and from our home, car and office.

However, football players around the country are returning to practice this week in the middle of one of the most brutal heat waves in years.

With heat related deaths of players tripling from 1994-2009, the people in charge of watching the health of those players are being extra vigilant.

Dave Polanski is the head athletic trainer at the University of Tulsa where practice began Thursday.

He told KRMG news he and his staff have a few particular challenges “teaching a young kid coming in what they have to do to prepare their bodies to sustain the effort through a two hour practice.”

Click here to listen to the extended interview with Polanski.

Even with education and prodding, some players don’t drink enough and suffer from the muscle cramps and disorientation that comes along with dehydration.

You might be surprised to find out how little you have to sweat to have a problem.

“If you lose two percent of your body weight your function and your performance will decrease,” Dave said. “Most of our players are over 200 pounds so that means if they lose just four pounds, they are compromised.”

But some of the guys go way beyond that.

“We have people who drop over 10 pounds in a practice but those are the bigger guys, the 300 pounders,” Polanski pointed out.

TU fights the heat with misting fans and huge ice bath tubs on the sidelines.

Some players are encouraged to get in the tubs after practice and some are told to.

Dave told us they also make adjustments to their practice times.

“We’re on the field at 7:30 a.m. and we’re off the field by 10:00 a.m.”

And during practice they push the players to drink constantly.

“We stop practices a couple of times and make sure everyone drinks a little bit of water,” Dave began. “Even letting the heart rate calm down will help them get through the remaining part of practice.”

As if the ambient temperature isn’t bad enough, the field gets even hotter.

“It was about 125 on the turf,” Dave said.

TU will move to the grass field from time to time to help out but it isn’t that different.

“The grass is still about 110.”

All schools provide electrolyte replacement drinks for their players as well as water, but most of us have heard teams are using chocolate milk as well.

A big jug of milk after an intense practice didn’t sound very appealing and it turns out it wouldn’t be.

“We use milk more after weight lifting,” Dave commented. “You’re right, milk after a hard work out wouldn’t be good,” he chuckled.

But Dave said to not sell milk short.

“It’s got the proteins and carbs in it that are the perfect mixture to help your muscles recover.”

I asked Dave if he had an opinion on why we’ve had more heat related problems and it turns out, he did.

“We spend our lives in air conditioning. Our bodies aren’t used to it and although we give our guys time to acclimatize it’s still not what they’re used to.”

Dave summed it up like this.

“Their daily life is not to be out in the heat.”

Until some cooler weather comes along, Polanski and his staff will be pushing players to drink more and take care of their bodies.

After all, you can’t win games with dehydrated players.

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