GHSA issues public statement after deaths of two football players

The GHSA issued a statement after Tuesday’s deaths of high school football players at Locust Grove and Fitzgerald. One is likely be heat-related while the other is unknown. Here’s the statement …


The Georgia High School Association is deeply saddened whenever a student dies, whether it be in an athletic situation or some other type of situation.  We are devastated to have had two students die after their involvement in football workouts, and we are concerned about the well-being of our athletes in the days to come.

Privacy laws prevent us from discussing any medical information about these situations without the permission of the family.  I can say, however, that the GHSA staff is gathering facts about these situations to evaluate whether our current standards for conducting practices are adequate.

The GHSA is beginning the third year of a comprehensive 3-year study on heat illness and football participation that is being conducted around the state.  This study is being conducted by Michael Ferrara at the University of Georgia, and is attempting to get scientific data on the relationship of heat and football activities in order to reduce the risk of heat illness during football workouts.

GHSA coaches have a great deal of information available to them about the importance of hydrating the players before, during and after workouts – and about modifying or canceling workouts when conditions warrant.  Most even institute a practice of weighing players before and after practice to identify those who need more hydration.  The GHSA web site ( also contains information from various parts of the medical community about dealing with heat illness.

GHSA By-law 2.67 sets the guidelines that our schools are to follow:

a)      Each member school shall have a written policy for conducting practices in all sports during times of extremely high heat and/or humidity that will be signed by each head coach and distributed to all players.  The policy shall include, but is not limited to:

(1)         the time of day the practices are to be scheduled at various heat/humidity levels

(2)         the ratio of workout time to time allotted for rest and hydration at various level of heat and humidity

(3)         the heat/humidity levels that will result in outdoor practices being terminated

b)      A scientifically approved instrument that measures the heat index must be utilized at each practice to ensure that the written policy is being followed properly.

c)      Schools may determine the heat/humidity levels using either wet bulb globe temperature readings or head index readings.

It is important to understand that the GHSA only sets the beginning date that practices may occur in every sport.  The decisions about when to begin those practices and how to schedule those practices are left to the professional judgment of coaches and administrators.

Dr. Ralph Swearngin, Executive Director, GHSA

15 comments Add your comment

concerned football parent

August 3rd, 2011
3:43 pm

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Concerned Mother

August 3rd, 2011
4:50 pm

I never understood why the football season was not started in January and played in the cooler months of the year? Basketball season opens in November why not move it to August? I think things are going to have to change for the “Best Interest” of our student athletes and our children. It took a few injuries to change the bats (composite) in baseball why is it taking deaths to see that there needs to be some change. Will it come down to our parents petitioning the GHSA to become more responsible and make a change. No parent should ever have go through seeing their child die and not graduate from high school due to a preventable situation that could have been controlled by a decision being made by the professional people who represent our student athlete /children’s future.


August 4th, 2011
10:30 am

GHSA needs to do more and be more proactive to prevent these unnecessary deaths. This is senseless loss of life. Waiting 2-3 years for the outcome of a study is not acceptable.


August 4th, 2011
10:45 am

with all due respect to the comments above, what do you all expect the GHSA 2 do? It is easy to get on the Internet and complain about what others should do. First of all, parents and children make the choice to play football or any other sport knowing the time that the sport is played and the risks. Secondly, the time of year football is played is determined by the NFHS (National Federation of High Schools). All high school football is played during the fall because playing it in the winter is unrealistic especially for states that experience real winters with wind, snow, and near sub-zero to single digit temperatures. Third, a method of controlling the amount of heat is to protect our environment by recycling and less cars on the road to pump out harmful emissions resulting in the destruction of our ozone layer resulting in hotter summers and days in general. In order to move the time of year when sports all played, it has to be voted on a national level affecting all 50 states, not just GA. Why don’t you all stop complaining and volunteer your services to assist these coaches and coaching staffs? Preventing heat deaths starts with a good meal at the beginning of each day and hydration prior to arriving at a football field. Consistent hydration is a must throughout the day for all of us. Three meals a deals along with proper hydration and conditioning is a must and that starts at home, not the football field. If you all are walking at a park and you suddenly collapse from heat exhaustion, then are you going to blame the park officials for your predicament? Regardless, when God calls us home, we are going home regardless if we are ready or not.


August 5th, 2011
8:59 am

I agree with 2G. You killed these kids by not recycling.

john norris

August 5th, 2011
3:51 pm



August 5th, 2011
5:51 pm

I haven’t heard much (in these blogs) about the importance of what kids put into their bodies these days! With so much junk food, artificial additives, genetically modified foods and total lack of nutrition in what we eat these, it’s amazing more deaths haven’t occurred! When I played HS football in the early 70s, players dying on the practice field was a rare occurrence. These days, every Summer/Fall you can expect to hear the tragic news of a player passing away from a heat related situation. The only real difference I’ve notice is the number players taking supplements, not drinking water and the lack of nutritious food. The kids are consuming to many synthetic vitamins and minerals. The human body needs natural nutrition from real food and water!


August 5th, 2011
9:05 pm

2g, you make a lot of valid points. I work with high school athletics, i’m an atc, and a lot of parents all they do is complain about things that at the root cause they can help prevent more then anybody. JMD, people die of cancer every day, those studies take a long time also. As far as moving around the times, the cold in north georgia probably won’t be much fun/safer to play in either. Camden, the human body has evolved and athletes are better nowadays, with this the slightest change can throw everything off. Think of a nascar car, one little piece of paper over part of the vent can cause it to overheat. While in the older days people were more like hummers, you weren’t as fast or powerful, but you could endure alot more.


August 7th, 2011
10:38 pm

My son’s school did the following:

Pushed hard for the kids to attend summer work outs.

Early drills started at 7AM – ended at 8:15. (Hydration all the way through the drills).

We weighed the kids when they got up, after the first drills (before breakfast) and before dinner – 3 times a day.


Practice – Helmet – no pads. Worked on plays, formations, etc. Began at 9:30 and ended at Noon.

Noon – Lunch – down time

4:30 – Early Dinner

6:30 to 8:30 – Practice – full pads

After shower and devotion (private school) – we fed the boys again.

Did this Monday, Tuesday and Thursday.

No pads on Wednesday (GHSA Rules – cannot practice in full pads 3 days in a row).

Full Pad Practices were crisp.

Did not lose one kid to the heat.

Only two injuries – with both expected to be back in a couple of weeks.

This came down to being careful, understanding hydration and food and practicing at times that make the most sense.


August 9th, 2011
12:08 am

mgdawg, that’s my point! We may have gone to far with synthetically fine tuning the human body! And in my opinion, athletes are no better now than they were in my day. Because of better training techniques and better coaching, there are probably more good athletes now. A top athlete from my day would be just as good or better today!

just facts

August 9th, 2011
12:16 pm

i know that i made my owm choice to read all of the above posts but my gosh…tell me that the majority of you are kidding and that you are not as stupid and uniformed as you seem.


August 10th, 2011
5:10 pm

I agree with just facts. How in the world can you read an article about the heat and football and then turn it into an environmental issues. The facts are if its too hot then practice in a climate controlled place. How do expect student atheles to be able to hydrate all day or eat a good meal for lunch in a public school system? My son plays football, he eats a good breakfast, drinks powerade at breakfast, has to eat a school lunch plus takes two peanut butter sandwiches for lunch. He drinks water at lunch but the next time he gets to drink water is right before practice. Teachers are not going to make an exception for athletes to drink in their classroom. Thats just a fact. I put my sons health and well being in the hands of his coach. I pray that the coach has enough common sense not to practice outside when the heat is at extreme highs. If an athlete gets injured or god for bid dies on the football field from the heat, the coach should be held liable. Thats just my thoughts.


August 14th, 2011
2:00 pm

Fact is, many if not most kids hardly even drink water anymore! Now, if we continue to suffer from mass stupidity and not recognize that what we (the kids) put into their bodies makes a huge difference in whether they’re properly hydrated or not! It is up to the parents to know and help out by reminding their children to drink lots of water and other fluids, especially if they’re participating in sports. The coaches also have a responsibility to remind both kids and parents about properly hydrating. Football is a rough sport and sometimes bad things happen to good people! But instead of placing the blame, let’s all work together to make sure this doesn’t happen again! My heart goes to all the parents across the country who have lost children due this ongoing situation……

Columbia Blue

August 19th, 2011
7:35 pm

When I was a child, we were ALWAYS outside doing something. Do our kids stay inside most of the time? Does that have a significant impact on their bodies ability to adapt to the heat? I am all for practicing inside when the the heat index is a detriment; however, would our kids be a lot better off if they were more active?