GHSA institutes new heat rules as high school football practice starts

By S. Thomas Coleman
For the AJC

The high school football season began officially Wednesday for several schools that plan to have their players in full pads on Aug. 1, the first day they are permitted to do so under a new policy being implemented by the Georgia High School Association to guard against heat related injuries.

The GHSA’s new Practice Policy for Heat and Humidity was approved by the organization’s executive committee in March. Though two Georgia high school football players died last year during summer workouts – Forest Jones of Locust Grove and DJ Searcy of Fitzgerald, who died while participating at a team camp at a facility in north Florida – the rule was crafted based largely on data collected during a three-year study which concluded at the beginning of this year.

The GHSA commissioned the study, according to executive director Ralph Swearngin, which was conducted by two University of Georgia researchers, Michael Ferrara and Bud Cooper. Members of the GHSA’s football sub-committee traveled to Athens in January to hear a presentation on the results of the study. Douglas Casa, a professor at the University of Connecticut and head of the Korey Stringer Institute, participated in the presentation as well.

“After getting the full results of the study, [the football sub-committee] came up with the new policy that the [executive committee] approved,” Swearngin said.

Some aspects of the new policy are:

 No player may practice in full pads until the player has participated in five practices without pads. This is designed to help players get acclimated to the heat.

 There are specific activity and rest break guidelines related to various wet bulb globe temperature readings. For example, a reading of over 92 results in outdoor practices being cancelled.

 Any school being found in violation of any part of the new policy is subject to a $500 to $1,000 fine.

“We’re asking schools to self report [violations] or asking parents to contact our office,” Swearngin said, speaking to how the new policy will be enforced. “We’re asking coaches to download the new policy and hand it out to students and parents because they need to know.”

Brookwood head coach Mark Crews said, “Any rule that keeps kids safe, we’re all for it.” But he admitted that the new rule cuts into the preparation time of teams like his, whose players are already acclimated to the heat after participating in voluntary workouts three-to-four days a week, all summer. The Broncos are one of several teams that will have their first game on the opening weekend of the season, Aug. 24-25. Brookwood will face Walton, last season’s Class AAAAA runner-up, at 8:30 p.m., Aug. 25 in the Corky Kell Classic at the Georgia Dome.

“With the calendar the way it is, it’s awfully difficult to get in as many [official] practices as you need,” said Crews, who held his team’s first official practice on Wednesday morning, so that the team can be in full pads on Aug. 1. “With school starting on Aug. 6, that gives us Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, and then school starts that Monday.

“I know the rule is for those schools that won’t do anything over the summer, and the rest of us have to suffer through it,” Crews said. “But it’s for the safety of the kids, and that’s the most important thing.”

On the other hand, Our Lady of Mercy head coach Mike Earwood said he may not start making practice “official” until July 30, three weekdays later than the new rule allows. His players have been involved in voluntary workouts this summer, three days a week.

“I just had a strong feeling that July 25 would be too early,” said Earwood, whose Bobcats will host Mt. Paran School on Aug. 31. “It’s a long season, and the things we would be doing for the five-day [acclimation period] wouldn’t be all that different from what our kids have been doing all summer.”

UGA professor Andrew Grundstein said the new rule puts Georgia at the forefront of being proactive in addressing illnesses and injuries related to the heat. Grundstein authored a national study on heat related deaths by high school football players and was one of the experts who met with GHSA officials back in January.

“This makes Georgia one of the very few states that have a specific [heat] policy in place for its high school players,” said Grundstein, whose study examined deaths suffered between 1994 and 2009. “I think it is wonderful what they have done.”

By S. Thomas Coleman
For the AJC

The high school football season officially began Wednesday for several schools that plan to have their players in full pads on Aug. 1, the first day they are permitted to do so under a new policy being implemented by the Georgia High School Association to guard against heat related injuries.
 
The GHSA’s new Practice Policy for Heat and Humidity was approved by the organization’s executive committee in March. Though two Georgia high school football players died last year during summer workouts – Forest Jones of Locust Grove and DJ Searcy of Fitzgerald, who died while participating at a team camp at a facility in north Florida – the rule was crafted based largely on data collected during a three-year study which concluded at the beginning of this year. 
 
The GHSA commissioned the study, according to executive director Ralph Swearngin, which was conducted by two University of Georgia researchers, Michael Ferrara and Bud Cooper. Members of the GHSA’s football sub-committee traveled to Athens in January to hear a presentation on the results of the study. Douglas Casa, a professor at the University of Connecticut and head of the Korey Stringer Institute, participated in the presentation as well.
 
“After getting the full results of the study, [the football sub-committee] came up with the new policy that the [executive committee] approved,” Swearngin said. 
 
Some aspects of the new policy are:
n       No player may practice in full pads until the player has participated in five practices without pads. This is designed to help players get acclimated to the heat.
n       There are specific activity and rest break guidelines, related to various wet bulb globe temperature readings. For example, a reading of over 92 results on outdoor practices being cancelled.
n       Any school being found in violation of any part of the new policy is subject to a $500 to $1,000 fine.
 
“We’re asking schools to self report [violations] or asking parents to contact our office,” Swearngin said, speaking to how the new policy will be enforced. “We’re asking coaches to download the new policy and hand it out to students and parents because they need to know.”
 
Brookwood head coach David Crews said, “Any rule that keeps kids safe, we’re all for it.” But he admitted that the new rule is cuts into the preparation time of teams like his, whose players are already acclimated to the heat after participating in voluntary workouts three-to-four days a week, all summer. The Broncos are one of several teams that will have their first game on the opening weekend of the season, Aug. 24-25. Brookwood will face Walton, last season’s Class AAAAA runner-up, at 8:30 p.m., Aug. 25 in the Corky Kell Classic at the Georgia Dome.
 
“With the calendar the way it is, it’s awfully difficult to get in as many [official] practices as you need,” said Crews, who held his team’s first official practice on Wednesday morning, so that the team can be in full pads on Aug. 1. “With school starting on Aug. 6, that gives us Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, and then school starts that Monday.
 
“I know the rule is for those schools that won’t do anything over the summer, and the rest of us have to suffer through it,” Crews said. “But it’s for the safety of the kids, and that’s the most important thing.”
 
On the other hand, Our Lady of Mercy head coach Mike Earwood said he may not start making practice “official” until July 30, three weekdays later than the new rule allows. His players have been involved in voluntary workouts this summer, three days a week.  
 
“I just had a strong feeling that July 25 would be too early,” said Earwood, whose Bobcats will host Mt. Paran School on Aug. 31. “It’s a long season, and the things we would be doing for the five-day [acclimation period] wouldn’t be all that different from what our kids have been doing all summer.”
 
UGA professor Andrew Grundstein said the new rule puts Georgia at the forefront of being proactive in addressing illnesses and injuries related to the heat. Grundstein authored a 
By S. Thomas Coleman

For the AJC

The high school football season officially began Wednesday for several schools that plan to have their players in full pads on Aug. 1, the first day they are permitted to do so under a new policy being implemented by the Georgia High School Association to guard against heat related injuries.

The GHSA’s new Practice Policy for Heat and Humidity was approved by the organization’s executive committee in March. Though two Georgia high school football players died last year during summer workouts – Forest Jones of Locust Grove and DJ Searcy of Fitzgerald, who died while participating at a team camp at a facility in north Florida – the rule was crafted based largely on data collected during a three-year study which concluded at the beginning of this year.

The GHSA commissioned the study, according to executive director Ralph Swearngin, which was conducted by two University of Georgia researchers, Michael Ferrara and Bud Cooper. Members of the GHSA’s football sub-committee traveled to Athens in January to hear a presentation on the results of the study. Douglas Casa, a professor at the University of Connecticut and head of the Korey Stringer Institute, participated in the presentation as well.

“After getting the full results of the study, [the football sub-committee] came up with the new policy that the [executive committee] approved,” Swearngin said.

Some aspects of the new policy are:

	No player may practice in full pads until the player has participated in five practices without pads. This is designed to help players get acclimated to the heat.

	There are specific activity and rest break guidelines, related to various wet bulb globe temperature readings. For example, a reading of over 92 results on outdoor practices being cancelled.

	Any school being found in violation of any part of the new policy is subject to a $500 to $1,000 fine.

“We’re asking schools to self report [violations] or asking parents to contact our office,” Swearngin said, speaking to how the new policy will be enforced. “We’re asking coaches to download the new policy and hand it out to students and parents because they need to know.”

Brookwood head coach David Crews said, “Any rule that keeps kids safe, we’re all for it.” But he admitted that the new rule is cuts into the preparation time of teams like his, whose players are already acclimated to the heat after participating in voluntary workouts three-to-four days a week, all summer. The Broncos are one of several teams that will have their first game on the opening weekend of the season, Aug. 24-25. Brookwood will face Walton, last season’s Class AAAAA runner-up, at 8:30 p.m., Aug. 25 in the Corky Kell Classic at the Georgia Dome.

“With the calendar the way it is, it’s awfully difficult to get in as many [official] practices as you need,” said Crews, who held his team’s first official practice on Wednesday morning, so that the team can be in full pads on Aug. 1. “With school starting on Aug. 6, that gives us Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, and then school starts that Monday.

“I know the rule is for those schools that won’t do anything over the summer, and the rest of us have to suffer through it,” Crews said. “But it’s for the safety of the kids, and that’s the most important thing.”

On the other hand, Our Lady of Mercy head coach Mike Earwood said he may not start making practice “official” until July 30, three weekdays later than the new rule allows. His players have been involved in voluntary workouts this summer, three days a week.

“I just had a strong feeling that July 25 would be too early,” said Earwood, whose Bobcats will host Mt. Paran School on Aug. 31. “It’s a long season, and the things we would be doing for the five-day [acclimation period] wouldn’t be all that different from what our kids have been doing all summer.”

UGA professor Andrew Grundstein said the new rule puts Georgia at the forefront of being proactive in addressing illnesses and injuries related to the heat. Grundstein authored a national study on heat related deaths by high school football players and was one of the experts who met with GHSA officials back in January.

“This makes Georgia one of the very few states that have a specific [heat] policy in place for its high school players,” said Grundstein, whose study examined deaths suffered between 1994 and 2009. “I think it is wonderful what they have done.”

national study on heat related deaths by high school football players and was one of the experts who met with GHSA officials back in January.
 
“This makes Georgia one of the very few states that have a specific [heat] policy in place for its high school players,” said Grundstein, whose study examined deaths suffered between 1994 and 2009. “I think it is wonderful what they have done.”
 
 
 

22 comments Add your comment

Donato Fraioli CEO/ASATI

July 25th, 2012
11:27 pm

It time for all athletic directors for all sports to look at “ASATI” Football & Sports domes. You don’t need a dome to cover the full size football field to get in a full practice.
ASATI provided the Giants, Jet and many others with half field size Football domes. if your school budget doesn’t allow for a full size dome we can construct a dome to fit your budget.
Take a look at ASATI.com web page for more details. We are doing this for past 50 years.
ASATI Sports Domes will put an end to death cause by training in high heat & humidity.
From design to completion, ASATI can have you indoors in less then 120 days!

Phildo

July 26th, 2012
7:54 am

Sorry. Sounds caring, but it’s merely a continuation of the wimping of America. Ten years from now, they’ll be playing scoreless whiffleball, where everybody is a winner and there are no losers, on the gridirons rather than football.. Can’t wait for the Marines, Rangers, SEALS, et. al to implement their new safe and caring regulations.

I dropped my fried twinkie

July 26th, 2012
10:08 am

I dropped my fried twinkie

July 26th, 2012
10:10 am

Make the kids play outside all summer and this wouldn’t be such an issue.
Make the Kids Drink a lot of Water.
Practice in the mornings.
Workout in the afternoon.
Be smart.

Mandingo

July 26th, 2012
11:18 am

At the end of the day, this is a game played by kids. They need to make it as safe as possible.

S. Thomas Coleman

July 26th, 2012
11:45 am

@Mandingo: Well said!

Also, my apologies to Brookwood head coach MARK Crews and to the Bronco Nation for getting his name wrong in today’s print edition of this story. It was a bad oversight on my part, working under deadline. Please accept my apology and good luck to the Broncos this season.

S. Thomas Coleman
s.thomascoleman@yahoo.com

rusty

July 26th, 2012
4:02 pm

I agree with Mandingo and to add to it – at the end of the day, it’s just a game.

Chris

July 26th, 2012
5:13 pm

How about making all the kids take a conditioning test to see if they can deal with the heat and pace of practices? The NFL does it, why can’t high schools?

Cobb Coach

July 26th, 2012
5:16 pm

Donato Fraioli CEO/ASATI

Have you not been paying attention to the budget cuts schools have been facing? Plus, the kids can’t play the game under the dome so what’s the point?

Cobb Coach

July 26th, 2012
5:19 pm

Every school needs to have a trainer on hand to monitor the conditions of the kids. Also, it works much better if there are 5 to 6 student trainers with water bottles standing by the stations so kids can get a drink when they need it instead of having to wait till the team has a break.

RealTalk

July 26th, 2012
11:23 pm

Why not just let them practice once every day starting this week every at 7:00am before the heat gets up to much? That would be 12 full pad practices before school starts on August 6.

whatfor

July 27th, 2012
12:30 am

Once again – we continue to make WHIMPS out of today’s young folks. I am truly sorry that some have died of heat related injuries (what, 2 in the state last year) – but there are thousands of boys practicing and playing in the state. That is like saying we will ban boys from driving till they are 18 because a couple of them were killed in car wrecks last year (though there were MANY more that 2 killed).
When I played about 20 years ago – we practiced 3 a-day in pads and got ONE water break per practice. Our evening practices would sometimes last 3-3 1/2 hours.
We continue to do nothing but coddle kids more and more.

Terry

July 27th, 2012
4:58 am

When I played in the 60’s, we never got water breaks and wore thick cotton jerseys. Of course we did not have air conditioning which made us handle the heat better.

Golden Isles Fan

July 27th, 2012
12:12 pm

WOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! even one death is to much, these rule are implemented for the safety of our kids, excuse them for being safe……

S. Thomas Coleman

July 27th, 2012
3:45 pm

Agreed, Golden Isles!

Your average kid today spends a lot more time indoors — not being physically active, by the way — in an air conditioned environment. Now, there are hundreds, maybe even thousands of kids who put in extra work and train over the summer — some even have position-specific trainers in addition to doing their voluntary workouts with the team.

Still, for those kids that do not put in the summer work and the extra work, it’s always better to err on the side of caution. To harken back to the “good ole days” when coaches told you water made you weak, MAYBE allowed you to suck on ice cubes and gave few if any hydration/heat breaks, is foolish at best and downright criminal at worst.

S. Thomas Coleman
s.thomascoleman@yahoo.com

Falcon Jim

July 28th, 2012
1:53 pm

I remember summer practice in 1970. Mid-90’s, full pads and two 3-hour practices a day. It’s amazing the coaches DIDN’T kill us. They thought in their magnanimous way they were watching out for us by weighing before and after practice. Once I lost 5 pounds in 3 hours, on a 140 pound frame. That has to be seriously dangerous!

I guess what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

footballNga

July 29th, 2012
9:35 am

Should make teams take more breaks and drink more water. I really don’t agree with new policy. It makes it where the kids will not be use to the heat on Friday night until it cools off. I look like to see where the season doesn’t start until after Sept 01. Start preseason 2 weeks before. Kids should work out all summer to get in shape. Cut back on playoffs at the end. Have only North and South champs because of hard economics times.

CantonFan

July 29th, 2012
4:28 pm

Make Echocardiograms a requirement to play an high school sport…many of the kids that have died didn’t know they had a heart condition. These can be set up to be done at the school and for a reasonable cost that the booster clubs of schools could easily afford to eliminate those that will say some parents can’t afford it. My son’s high school did this and my cost was something like $50-$75. Well worth it to know that your son or daughter is participating in a demanding sport where a heart condition could be an issue. Well worth the money.

runtheball

July 30th, 2012
7:22 pm

Certainly good to see them being safe. However it will put a big strain on coaches to get
their kids ready to play. Anyone concerned about how this will affect the level of play among
Georgia High school football? I know it gets hot but.. 92? It gets over 92 in Florida, Alabama, South Carolina, Mississippi, And Texas almost every day in August just like here…. When will
the kids be able to practice outdoors at all? October i guess. Not all schools have places to practice
indoors. Again, its great to see that we are looking after our kids. Just hope we are looking at some
alternatives rather than taking away practice time. For some kids, Football is their future.

Camden74

August 1st, 2012
2:29 am

I’ve said it once and I’m saying it again, IMO, many of the Heat related injuries and deaths have a lot to do with what the kids do and don’t put into their bodies………I agree with doing everything possible to protect the kids, START AT HOME and the coaches should follow up at school and practice! :-)

Ray Puglisi

August 4th, 2012
5:32 pm

I am the owner of Chill Zone, we provide misting systems and cooling systems to NCAA football, The NFL, NASCAR and the PGA tour, I also have coached High School football in Florida. It is not just kids or football players that have heat related injuries, its all types of sports and all ages. We just installed one of our systems at Cairo HS for their Football team along with some of our portable units for other sports. Our systems range and size and price but all are very effective, we have sold our units to Youth football and Baseball all around the country, we have provided our systems to Major NCAA football for many years, they use them for practice and games, race fans at NASCAR events have enjoyed the cooling effects of our systems, and many medical people have commented on how helpful they have been in reducing heat related stress and heat exhaustion. The players need the discipline to make sure they are hydrated, the coaches need to be flexible to allow more water breaks if needed while not jeopardizing the preparation. There are many cost effective ways to keep the players, coaches, cheerleaders, medical staff, teams etc cool during the hot days of summer and practice and games. Budget cuts all around the country in school systems have hurt all schools, some our systems can be purchased for less than $1000.00 and would go a long way in preventing these heat related incidents. I can be contacted for more information on any of our systems and which system would be suited for each situation and budget. I am sure many of the local businesses or booster clubs could raise money to purchase these systems if the school budget doesn’t allow for it. We can be found at http://www.chillzonellc.com we are based in Florida but we travel the country working with all levels of athletic programs in order to keep their players safe.

Camden74

August 5th, 2012
10:39 pm

@Ray Puglisi……..Contact Camden County High School, Kingsland, Georgia….. :-)