Heat and hydration are a focus this week as high school football teams across the state move toward full contact scrimmages.
Temperatures are expected to be moderate by August standards, creeping toward 90 Friday, but certified athletic trainers will be monitoring heat and humidity throughout preseason workouts.
N.C. High School Athletic Association rules require teams to have five days of acclimatization before beginning body-to-body contact.
Players are required to have two days in helmets, shirts, shorts and shoes before wearing shoulder pads. The players practice with shoulder pads on days Nos. 3, 4 and 5, but cannot have any body-to-body contact until the sixth day when players may wear full uniforms.
The days count for each individual, not for the team. A player who misses a practice must have five days of practice before body-to-body contact. Each player must have three days in full uniform before participating in a scrimmage or game.
“You have to think about the kid who has moved in. We want to do everything we can to keep the players safe,” said Apex coach Joe Kilby, formerly at Cedar Ridge.
Chapel Hill, East Chapel Hill and Carrboro – in line with most area programs – held voluntary workouts throughout the summer. Players could wear helmets and shoulder pads in those workouts, but pads come off at the start of official practice.
The Chapel Hill-Carrboro school district approved a full-time trainer for Carrboro in 2009 and followed suit shortly thereafter for Chapel Hill and East Chapel Hill.
North Carolina now requires that a trainer be present at all football games and practices.
“They are good rules,” said new Enloe coach Steve Johnson, who is starting his 30th season on the sidelines. “You are always concerned about a kid who is coming out who may not have had much work in the summer. You want to err on the side of caution. Two days without pads isn’t that big of a thing.”
Green Hope coach Kwame Dixon’s players don’t wear pads in the summer so the five days of acclimatization will be a continuation of what the team did in the offseason.
“We use the summer for conditioning and acclimatizing,” Dixon said. “We keep doing what we’ve been doing, building toward the season.”
Players are to be given unlimited water at all times and water breaks are mandatory.
No heat-related fatalities among high school players have been reported anywhere in the national during the past two years, according to the National Center for Catastrophic Sports Injury Research at the University of North Carolina.
There were 17 fatalities among the approximate 1.1 million high school football players in the country in 2013. Eight high school players died as a result of direct contact during the season and nine died of indirect events, including eight heart-related deaths.
The reduction in heat related fatalities is notable. There were five heat stroke related deaths involving high school football players in 2011.