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Naples Daily News (Florida)

 

Football coaches in Collier County won't be mandated to buy equipment to prevent heatstroke, but they still are taking some of the steps necessary to prevent it.

Five weeks ago, the Florida High School Athletic Association postponed a decision on whether to mandate access to ice tubs in case of heatstroke, as well as thermometers that measure heat stress.

"Coaches around here expect Florida football to be hot - it always has been," said Naples High School head football coach Bill Kramer. "But for my team, we have cooling misting fans and kiddie pools filled with water and ice, and we've been doing stuff like that forever."

Kramer has coached at Naples High School since 1998.

"Everybody wants to keep their players safe," he said. "I don't know any coach who wouldn't do the most they can for their players and their safety."

At Immokalee High School, head coach Anthony Rodelin also has ice tubs, makes his players take mandatory waters breaks and is constantly reminding them to stay hydrated.

"Coach has us hydrating every day," Immokalee quarterback R.J. Rosales said. "We've got the ice tubs and he's always telling us the conditions outside so that we can stay safe."

Another way coaches try to help players stay cool is by cooling down the temperatures on the field.

"About 10 years ago, when we got our new field, they put in a sprinkler system that keeps the field temperature down," Kramer said.

Rodelin goes one step further.

"During the season, right before practice every day, I make sure our sprinkler system comes (on)," he said. "I set it for a time that I will actually be able to see, and sometimes it even gets the players a little wet during warmups."

Since Rodelin was a player at Immokalee in 2005, things have changed a lot in terms of heatstroke prevention, but he's still worried about the cost of a new FHSAA policy.

"If you're going to mandate coaches do something, then provide the funding," he said. "I'm OK with restrictions on us, but just give us the money."

Worst state for heatstroke deaths

Since 2010 Florida has had more high school athletes die from heatstroke than any other state, according to the University of Connecticut's Korey Stringer Institute, a research, education and advocacy organization whose goal is to prevent sudden death in sports.

From 1995 to 2015, 61 football players have died from heat-related illness, 46 of those in high school. Ninety percent of those deaths occurred during practice.

Riverdale High School football player Zachary Polsenberg collapsed from heatstroke last June in Fort Myers during summer practice after registering a core temperature of 107 degrees.

"The FHSAA seems determined not to address heat illness best practice guidelines to protect high school athletes," Polsenberg's mother, Laurie Martin Giordano, said. "I am confused why the FHSAA would completely disregard the recommendation of their own advisory board and the nation's leading physicians and athletic trainers on this topic.

Douglas Casa, head of the Korey Stringer Institute, met with FHSAA board members and medical advisers the past two years on heat safety policies and was just as disappointed in their decision.

"Between now and 20 years from now, they're going to require cold-water immersion tubs. It's going to happen," he said. "Why do we have to keep having more young kids die needlessly because you didn't enforce a policy that would have saved them?"

The Fort Myers News-Press contributed to this report.

Tips for preventing heat exhaustion

Hydrate before, during and after exercise.

Maintain appropriate work-to-rest ratios based on the heat and conditions.

Increase rest breaks as temperatures increase.

If you think an athlete is suffering from heat exhaustion, elevate legs and cool person with fans, rotating ice towels, ice bags or ice bath.

Source: Korey Singer Institute

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