High school coaches change game plan as temperatures rise

Four players at Columbia High School were transported to area hospitals for heat exhaustion
WAFF's Savannah Sapp reporting
Published: Aug. 22, 2023 at 8:46 PM CDT
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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WAFF) - The near-record temperatures in the Tennessee Valley are taking a toll on high school football players. Columbia High School Head coach Sean Watson says four players are recovering after suffering from heat exhaustion.

“Tomorrow, they’ll be back at it like regular. Talking with all the parents and all the doctors, they made sure everything’s clear for them to play on Friday,” Watson said.

Director of Sports Medicine at Huntsville Hospital, Michael Stevenson said football itself is a tough sport, but factoring in 100-degree temperatures changes the game.

“Football requires a lot of padding. So you’re taking away or covering up your body’s natural way of cooling itself. The heat cranks the difficulty level up a notch,” said Stevenson.

Stevenson said parents need to ensure their athletes are staying hydrated as well as eating nutritious meals.

“Parents need to be making sure their kids are hydrating, making sure that they’re eating, they need to eat some nutrient-rich foods they need to drink water as much as they can, sports drinks electrolyte drinks intermittently. Lay off the caffeine,” Stevenson said.

Coaches like Watson are now altering practices to help battle the scorching temperatures.

“So with the heat being how it is, we obviously can’t practice how we want to practice,” Watson said. “What we’ll do in the beginning is practice in the gym, and then towards the end of practice, right about 5 o clock when the temperature goes down, we’ll get that last 45 minutes to an hour outside.”

Stevenson says it is most important for athletes to listen to their bodies and communicate with staff

“There’s a really thin line for athletes between pushing yourself really hard and pushing yourself too far. What we tell athletes is you need to communicate with us and we will do our best to help you find where that line is,” said Watson.

With the beginning of football season quickly approaching, the Alabama High School Athletic Association recommends teams take extended timeouts during the Kickoff Classic this week. Coaches will ensure players are taking frequent breaks for water during these times.

Many schools in the Tennessee Valley have already decided to push back the kick-off time by 30 minutes.

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