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Fifteen football players died during 2002 season, none from heatstroke, study finds

d by about 150 volunteers who monitor sports accidents, along with information from the National Collegiate Athletic Association and the National Federation of State High School Associations.

"We found eight cases of permanent disability from catastrophic injuries in football last year, including six from neck and two from head injuries," Mueller said. "At least 12 other major injuries occurred, but in those cases the players recovered completely."

Coaches need to remind players often that the head has no place in football, he said. No one should make first contact with his -- or her -- head when blocking and tackling. That's against the rules, but more importantly, it's dangerous.

In 1968, 36 young men died after injuries in practices or in games. Mueller said, but not a single death directly attributable to football occurred in 1990. The drop in "direct" football deaths resulted from rule changes adopted in 1976 that prohibited using the head as the first point of contact while blocking and tackling.

Shorter practices and non-contact drills during which players don't wear helmets can help prevent heatstroke and reduce accidents, he said. Players should be allowed as much water as they wish, and coaches should schedule regular cooling-off breaks.

Coaches and trainers ought to keep a close eye on temperature and humidity, especially in August and September, Mueller said. Practices can be held early or late in the day, and if it's too hot, coaches need to consider canceling them for a day or so until temperature and humidity drop.

"Players must be encouraged to tell adults if they don't feel good," he said. "They should never ever be made to feel unmanly or weak if they are having trouble. Although many coaches used to do that and thought it was the right thing, now we understand that's a potentially deadly prescription for disaster. We have all the tools and knowledge to prevent heatstroke fatalities."

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Contact: David Williamson
919-962-8596
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
8-Aug-2003


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