HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) — Record-breaking temperatures and the start of the high school football season is an interesting mix.
On one hand, it’s fall football and the players are excited to get on the field. But on the other hand, high temperatures pose a safety and health risk to the players on the field.
On Monday, the Columbia High School Eagles were heading out to practice around 4 p.m. – per usual. Head Coach Sean Watson was aware of the staggering temps outside and decided to practice in shells [shoulder pads, helmets, shorts] instead of full pads.
“When I started seeing kids overheating you know, I played ball back in the day as well, so I’m used to full body cramps… I have asthma as well, so when you start seeing certain types of problems like that, that’s when you say ‘Hey man, this don’t look good, Let’s see what we need to do for the next step,” said Coach Watson.
So as a precautionary measure, Coach Watson alerted paramedics to help some of his players.
Watson said that a few of those boys did go to the emergency room after showing symptoms of heat fatigue, but those players are doing better. They are expected to make a full recovery and could be back on the field for practice on Wednesday.
As for the rest of the week of practice, Watson is hoping to limit outside exposure. “We obviously cannot practice like we want to practice. What we’ll do in the beginning is kind of practice in the gym and then towards the end might run around 5 o’clock or you know when the temperature goes down, we might get 45 minutes to an hour outside,” Watson said.
For parents of athletes who may be practicing outdoors in these temperatures, there are signs of heat fatigue that you can watch out for.
“Dizziness, vision changes, stomach ache, your body quit sweating,” said Columbia High School nurse Christina McDonald.
The Sports Medicine Department at Huntsville Hospital has been working with coaches and athletic staffs in the area ahead of this week’s high temperatures.
“Everything they need to be doing is in prep for days in advance. We had our athletic trainers try to communicate with our athletes and coaches as much as we could over the weekend with the high heat advisory. Making sure you hydrate, sleep well, rest as much as you can, replenish as much as you can, hydrating, eating as much nutrient-rich food as you can, try to stay away from fast food – as much as I hate to say it,” said Michael Stevenson, Director of Sports Medicine for Huntsville Hospital.
This sweltering weather is set to continue the rest of the week, as teams will kick off their football season across North Alabama on Thursday and Friday.