WESTCHESTER, N.Y. -- Croton High School football coach John Catano spends a lot of time thinking about heat and humidity indexes, hydration and electrolytes this time of the year as he and his coaching staff prepare for the upcoming summer football camps and practices that begin next week.
“Keeping the athletes conditioned and prepared for practice and the season is always a priority, especially when we get into these hot and humid days,” said Catano, who has led the Tigers to two consecutive Section 1 football titles in the last three years. “Most of the kids play AAU basketball, travel lacrosse or are involved in other summer sports, so they are usually in shape. The key is to be sure they have the right diet and drink plenty of water and other fluids.”
Twenty-four high school football players have died due to heat-related injuries in the past 10 years, according to a 2010 study by the National Center for Catastrophic Sport Injury Research at the University of North Carolina. Four high school players died last summer in high school football programs in Georgia, South Carolina and Florida, where summers are especially hot and humid.
Catano said parents can help by monitoring their youngsters eating and drinking habits, making sure they get the right food, water and sleep and avoiding drinks with caffeine such as Red Bull.
Ossining running back Josh Almodovar said Pride coach Dan Ricci and his staff protect their players throughout the summer and fall season.
“For our practices, our coaches do all they can to keep us cool and hydrated,” Almodovar said. “They give us a lot of water breaks to make sure we hydrate, especially when it’s excessively hot. They even do their best to keep us in the shady part of the football field, so we aren't out in the sun burning up. Overall they do a great job.”
Catano said teenage athletes and their parents are more aware than ever about the dangers of dehydration and over exertion in the early weeks of football workouts. Westchester high school football teams attend summer camps beginning next week with the Section 1 football practice schedule set to begin Aug. 16 and 17.
“We use the social media, email and connect with the kids by phone whenever we can to remind them to avoid food like salted potato chips, caffeinated drinks and other foods that can cause dehydration,” Catano said. “We even have a Facebook page where we post reminders."
Dobbs Ferry’s Tim Soave, a running back and linebacker for last year’s Class C state champion Eagles football team, said frequent breaks and liquids help him adapt.
“We just make sure we have a lot of water and Gatorade to drink, so we stay hydrated,” Soave said. “And the coaches give us enough breaks to be able to regain energy so we can keep working hard.”
Catano said he looks for signs of dehydration and exhaustion such as a player who is soaked through his pads and uniform, flushed faces or loss of balance or vitality.
“We take breaks every 40 minutes, and more often when it’s 90 degrees or more,” Catano said.
The National Center for Sports Safety offers hints on what signs to look for when a player is dehydrated or suffering the effects of heat exhaustion and the remedies to administer.
What to look for?
- Confusion – cannot remember simple things, complete simple/routine tasks
- Irritability – a change in temperament
- Belligerence – easily frustrated, compounded by the confusion and irritability
- Lack of coordination
- Fatigue – in excess of what would be anticipated
- Paradoxical chills – goose bumps and shivering in the face of high environmental temperature (an ominous sign)
If you or someone else is exhibiting these symptoms:
- Stop the activity immediately
- Move to a cool (shaded) area
- Get some fluid (water, sports drink, IV)
- Contact a health professional or your sport safety certified coach