NATA introduces heat acclimatization guidelines

The US National Athletic Trainers’ Association has introduced pre-season training guidelines for gradual heat acclimatization in all high school sports.

Highlighted at the Annual NATA conference, these guidelines are the outcome of work with a task force concerned about the deaths of high school athletes during the hottest days of summer.

According to the Annual Survey of Football Injury Research, twenty-nine prep football players have died from heat-related illnesses since 1995, including four heatstroke deaths at the high school level and two at the college level in 2008.

One of the most publicized deaths was that of Max Gilpin, 15, offensive lineman for Pleasure Ridge Park High in Louisville. His parents have filed a civil lawsuit against the coach, David Jason Stinson. Stinson also faces reckless homicide charges in a criminal case to be tried Aug. 31. He has pleaded not guilty.

Highlights of the heat acclimatization program, which covers the initial 14 days of pre-season practice include limitations on the number of training hours and practices per day, as well as the amount of protective clothing worn.

“There are states where you could have three three-hour practices in full gear on the first day,” says task force co-chair Douglas Casa, director of athletic training education at the University of Connecticut. The NATA policy is designed to “slowly and incrementally increase the pressures an athlete is under.”

The National Federation of State High School Associations supports the guidelines but has no authority to enforce them, says Bob Colgate, head of the federation’s football rules committee. “The states have wanted to set their own guidelines,” he says. “We applaud what NATA is trying to do. We’ll share the information with the states.”

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