New recommendations for high school athletes

INDIANAPOLIS - New recommendations for high school athletes were announced Friday during the National Athletic Trainers’ Association conference in downtown Indianapolis.

Experts say the simple recommendations could save lives, but Indiana is not implementing the changes statewide.

Heat and sports can be a deadly combination. Eighteen high school students have died from heat stroke in the last five years. Many more have survived, but have suffered lifelong health problems as a result.

"It's one of the very few medical conditions that strike down the healthiest people in the prime of their life," said athletic director Doug Casa.

That's why keeping athletes cool was a major theme at the National Athletic Trainers' Association conference.

On Friday, experts announced their newest medical recommendations to keep players safe -- their first update since 2002 -- and they include some big changes.

"The really big item is the concept of cool first, transport second," Casa said. "Because the key to surviving a heat stroke is getting their temperature down under 105 within 30 minutes of collapse. And we can't lose the minutes waiting for an ambulance while they're on-site and then getting to the hospital. So we need to utilize a great cooling modality like cold water immersion and get them cooled on-site."

Another recommendation includes new practice guidelines that ease players into the season.

"Not having two-a-days in the first five days. Not having successive days of two-a-days, phasing in the amount of equipment. So that's been done at the NCAA level and at the pro level, and 13 states so far have met the minimum guidelines for heat acclimatization. But Indiana is a state that has not met the guidelines," Casa said.

Casa said those guidelines are the simplest way to assure protection because almost all heat strokes happen in the first three days of practice.

Colts Offensive Lineman Joe Reitz knows firsthand the toll heat can take on players. He offered advice to prevent the cramping and ill effects from heat and dehydration.

"A couple days before your training camp starts, really start pushing fluids, really start drinking water, drinking Gatorade, drinking more than you have to," Reitz said. "Issues like heat illness can creep up on people if you're not aware." 

A spokesperson for the Indiana High School Athletic Association said they have adopted language in its bylaws that addresses practice guidelines and they have been published since May on their website.

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