It is that time of year again–more sad news of the tragic deaths of high school football players. These young players typically die of undetected heart problems, made worse by playing in extreme temperatures of the late summer months. I played high school football myself, and often thought some of the conditions were made unnecessarily difficult by muscle-head coaches bent on “toughening” players when they were actually just feeding their own egos. While it is not known if any of these deaths could have been prevented, there are some things we could be doing as parents, coaches and school administrators to reduce the risk of more players dying so tragically young.
Often times high school football players die from an undetected heart condition that could have been found through more intensive screening. Heart murmurs and irregular heartbeats are not likely to be detected during regular physicals without the use of an EKG or more sophisticated equipment. If your child is preparing to play high school sports it may be a good idea to ask for this further level of screening, even if you have to pay for it out-of-pocket.
More Water, Less Heat
I remember in high school our coaches literally became angry at the mere mention of needing water. It was thought to be a sign of weakness to want something to drink, when in fact it was simply a physiological response to being dehydrated. I guess it is asking a lot for a high school football coach to understand that. I’ve done a little youth soccer coaching and I’m always aware of the temperature and the level of activity I’m requiring of the kids. I opt for frequent water breaks and err on the side of caution. Perhaps if school administrators provided more oversight of practice times and duration, and the frequency of breaks, there were would be less incidence of heat-related problems.
Football is a tough sport, but one that when well-coached can teach many positive traits to our children, such as discipline, perseverance, and sportsmanship. However, it is the responsibility of parents, coaches and school administrators to ensure the safety of high school football players.