Tue., March 20, 2012 2:57pm (EDT)

Expect Shorter, Fewer Football Practices
By Joshua Stewart
media link
Updated: 2 years ago

ATLANTA  —  
University of Georgia researchers reported last month heat-related deaths have tripled in the last 15 years and Georgia has the most of any state. GHSA commissioned the study so the association could set fact-based heat rules. (Photo Courtesy of Justin Russell via Flickr.)
University of Georgia researchers reported last month heat-related deaths have tripled in the last 15 years and Georgia has the most of any state. GHSA commissioned the study so the association could set fact-based heat rules. (Photo Courtesy of Justin Russell via Flickr.)
The Georgia High School Association has approved new requirements designed to help high school football players cope with the heat during summer practices.

The heat policy gives each athlete five days of practice with no pads to get used to the heat, humidity and intense activity. After that, teams can practice in full gear twice a day, up to a total of five hours. But no back-to-back days with two practices, and no more three-a-day practices.

GHSA Executive Director Ralph Swearingin said the new standards are three years in the making.

“When we set these policies out, we have no guarantees that we won’t have any isolated individuals who will have some difficulty,” Swearngin said. “But we think we’ll have steps in place that they won’t be put into extreme conditions, and our people will be better able to monitor and know how to handle those situations.”

Two football players died during practice last August in Georgia. Swearngin said the research guiding the new standards was well underway by last season. University of Georgia researchers reported last month heat-related deaths have tripled in the last 15 years and Georgia has the most of any state.

Swearngin said conditioning drills are often most dangerous for players.

“[Those are drills like] 40-yard sprints or 100-yard sprints or running the stairs or mat drills under extreme heat conditions,” he said. “We’re interested in making sure that the duration of time, the intensity of activity is taken into account.”

The rules also standardize how the heat is measured with a type of thermometer that gauges temperature, humidity, and the amount of heat from the sun absorbed by a player’s skin.

The GHSA executive committee also approved broad guidelines that dictate the level of activity for every sport based on a sliding scale of the heat level.

Click here to read the minutes of the GHSA Executive Committee meeting for more on the new heat rules.


Excerpts of the GHSA Executive Committee meeting minutes from March 19, 2012 implementing new heat rules for high school sports:

Football Preseason Practice Regulations:
1. Football practice may begin five consecutive weekdays prior to August 1. In the first five days of practice for any student, the practice shall not last longer than 2 hours, and the student shall wear no protective gear except for helmet and mouthpiece. Note: The time for a session shall be measured from the time the players report to the field until they leave the field.

2. Beginning August 1, any student may practice in full pads and may practice two times in a single calendar day under the following stipulations:
a. A student must have participated in five conditioning practices wearing no protective gear other than helmet and mouthpiece before being allowed to practice in full pads
b. If multiple workouts are held in a single day:
(1) No single session may last longer than 3 hours
(2) The total mount of time in the two practices shall not exceed 5 hours
(3) There must be at least a 3-hour time of rest between sessions
(4) There may not be consecutive days of two-a-day practices. All double-session days must be followed by a single-session day or a day off
c. These procedures are derived from recommendations created by the Inter-Association Task Force for Preseason Secondary School Athletics Participants in the research paper "Preseason Heat-Acclimatization Guidelines for Secondary School Athletics."
Motion Passed (voice vote)


Revise By-Law 2.67 - "Practice Policy and Heat and Humidity" as follows:
Schools must follow the statewide policy for conducting practices and voluntary conditioning workouts in all sports during times of extremely high heat and/or humidity that will be signed by each head coach at the beginning of each season and distributed to all players and their parents or guardians. The policy shall follow modified guidelines of the American College of Sports Medicine in regard to:
1. The scheduling of practices at various heat/humidity levels
2. The ratio of workout time to time allotted for rest and hydration at various heat/humidity levels
3. The heat/humidity level that will result in practice being terminated
A scientifically approved instrument that measures Wet Bulb Globe Temperature (WBGT) reading must be utilized at each practice to ensure that the written policy is being followed properly.

WBGT READING | ACTIVITY GUIDELINES & REST BREAK GUIDELINES
Under 82.0 | Normal activities--Provide at least three separate rest breaks each hour of minimum duration of 3 minutes each during workout
82.0 - 86.9 | Use discretion for intense or prolonged exercise; watch at-risk players carefully; Provide at least three separate rest breaks each hour of a minimum of four minutes duration each
87.0 - 89.9 | Maximum practice time is two hours. For Football: players restricted to helmet, shoulder pads, and shorts during practice. All protective equipment must be removed for conditioning activities. For all sports: Provide at least four separate rest breaks each hour of a minimum of four minutes each
90.0 - 92.0 | Maximum length of practice is one hour, no protective equipment may be worn during practice and there may be no conditioning activities. There must be 20-minutes of rest breaks provided during the hour of practice
Over 92.1 | No outdoor workouts; Cancel exercise; delay practices until a cooler WBGT reading occurs

GUIDELINES FOR HYDRATION AND REST BREAKS
1. Rest time should involve both unlimited hydration intake (water or electrolyte drinks) and rest without any activity involved
2. For football, helmets should be removed during rest time
3. The site of the rest time should be a "cooling zone" and not in direct sunlight
4. When the WBGT reading is over 86:
a. ice towels and spray bottles filled with ice water should be available at the "cooling zone" to aid the cooling process
b. cold immersion tubs must be available for practices for the benefit of any player showing early signs of heat illness.

DEFINITIONS
1. Practice: the period of time that a participant engages in a coach-supervised, school-approved sport or conditioning-related activity. Practices are timed from the time the players report to the field until they leave the field.
2. Walk Through: this period of time shall last no more than one hour, is not considered to be a part of the practice time regulation, and may not involve conditioning or weight-room activities. Players may not wear protective equipment.
PENALTIES: Schools violating heat policy shall be fined a minimum of $500.00 and a maximum of $1,000.00.
Motion Passed (voice vote)