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Heat-related deaths in middle, high school football players spikes in 2006

Every year, Fred Mueller, professor of exercise and sports science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, compiles a sports list, but unlike popular pre-season picks or a glamorous hot-recruit sheet, nobody envies him this task. Some years the list is longer than others, but, Mueller said, there's no reason any kid should be on it.

Its a list of boys who died playing or practicing football, kids whose body temperatures rose so high and so fast under the summer sun that their brains couldnt keep up, couldnt regulate their cores, and the boys died.

When something is preventable ..., Mueller said, shaking his head. Those kids could be alive today.

Five young athletes, from 11 to 17 years old, died of heat stroke in 2006. The trend was declining. The last time there were more than five was 1972, when there were seven. In five of the past 16 years there were none. But, Mueller said, there have been 31 since 1995, and all of them could have been avoided.

Seven other players died last year of "heart-related" deaths that might or night not have been related to heat or exertion. "And we don't know the number of kids who had heat exhaustion," said Mueller, in UNC's College of Arts & Sciences.

With summer practice about to swing into high gear, Mueller said its time to remember these kids, and to keep in mind how heat-related deaths can be prevented.

  • Require each athlete to have a physical and know if an athlete has a history of heat-related illness; these kids are more susceptible to heat stroke. Overweight players are also at higher risk.

  • Acclimatize players to the heat slowly; North Carolina mandates that the first three days of practice be done without uniforms.

  • Alter practice schedules to avoid long workouts in high-humidity.

  • Provide cold water before, during and after practice in unlimited quantities
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Contact: Clinton Colmenares
clinton_colmenares@unc.edu
919-843-1991
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
2-Aug-2007


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