Aug 21, 2009 Post By: Children's Health

Keeping it Cool on the Football Field

I remember sweating through summer dance team practices in high school, but it was nothing compared to what our football players endured.

In preparation for Friday night lights, the football players headed to the field twice a day dressed from head to toe in their protective gear. They tried all kinds of tricks to cool down - applied ice packs to their bodies, gulped cold drinks and dunked their heads in buckets of water to name a few. The coaches justified these brutal practices with a successful season.

But pushing it to the limits has proven to be dangerous - even fatal. Just last summer, six football players died from heat-related illnesses. CNN reports that one coach faces a lawsuit over a 15-year-old player who died three days after his body reached 107 degrees at practice.

Some schools are taking a proactive approach by investing in specialized sensors that are placed in players' helmets. The coach is signaled once the player's temperature goes over 102.5 degrees. But a district-wide policy has yet to be enforced in most Dallas schools.

What action can you take to help your athlete beat the heat? Brandee Schmidt who manages our Sports Medicine Program says the key is to start hydrating two hours before practice. Water is the preferred drink for activities lasting less than 60 minutes and sports drinks help replace your child's electrolytes if they are staying active for more than 90 minutes.

Learn more about preventing dehydration and how to spot warning signs of heat-related conditions by reading the related posts on the right.