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Heatstroke killed four football players during 1998, expert urges precautions

thers with their heads down.

"With many schools starting earlier this year and the very hot weather we have been having across the country, heatstroke could be an even bigger problem than in the past," Mueller said. "Players should start off easy for at least seven to 10 days to get them acclimated to the heat."

Mueller, chairman of the American Football Coaches' Committee of Football Injuries, directs the National Center for Catastrophic Sports Injuries, based at the university. Every year, the center issues reports on deaths and severe injuries from amateur and professional sports.

Reports are based partly on newspaper stories from around the United States, along with information from the National Collegiate Athletic Association, the National Federation of State High School Associations and about 150 volunteers who monitor sports accidents.

In 1968, 36 young men died after injuries in practices or in games. Mueller said. The drop in deaths directly attributable to football resulted from rule changes adopted in 1976 that prohibited using the head as the first point of contact during blocking and tackling.

Mueller and other experts strongly recommend pre-practice physical examinations for boys -- and the small number of girls -- who want to play football. Such exams sometimes reveal hidden conditions that make heavy exertion hazardous. Parents should make sure their children are insured against catastrophic injury and that medical assistance is available during practice and games.

Players should salt their food, but should not use salt tablets, which may do more harm than good, the UNC-CH professor said. They also should weigh in before and after practice. If they lose more than 3 percent of their weight from one day to another, they should not be allowed to practice because it means they are getting dehydrated. Overweight athletes and those who try hardest face the highest risk of heatstroke.


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Contact: David Williamson
David_Williamson@unc.edu
919-962-8596
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
2-Aug-1999


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