Spring training has begun for football, and many schools around the country are working hard to make sure that this year's football season is safer than in years past. This is thanks to a new study that found that football players are 11 times more likely to suffer heat illnesses than all other high school sports combined.
In response to the new data, several states are making big changes in their schools' policies for playing in the heat, both at the high school and college levels. Georgia, the state with the dubious distinction of being the leader in heat-related football player deaths, developed a policy last year to limit practices when the temps get too high. Other states, including Pennsylvania and Iowa, have new heat-related policies that will go into effect this year. Texas has a new policy currently under review.
Other states with high exertional heat illness rates are Florida, Alabama, Arizona and Kentucky. Last year, Florida and Arizona also made changes to their football practice policies. The two states adopted all seven of the heat guidelines, which have also been adopted by the National Football League and the National Collegiate Athletic Association. (Kentucky meets only one. Alabama does not meet any.)
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 9,000 high school athletes are treated for exertional heat illness every year. Most of the incidents occur in the dog-days of August, when players must ramp up practicing in the worst of the summer's heat. But spring also brings on its fair share of heat-related illnesses as spring football training typically involves weeks of practice in full pads in warmer weather when players are not yet acclimated to the heat and humidity and may not yet be in shape after the long winter.
Some coaches and fans have pushed back against the new regulations, but overall, most schools say the results have been positive. Does your state have a policy in place to regulate football practices when the temps go up? You can check a state-by-state list of standards here.
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