Long before kids go back to school and cheer for their football team from the bleachers, the players have been preparing for the new season, often in dangerous conditions. According to CNN, it’s common for football players to report to practice as early as 7 a.m., work hard for a few hours, stop to eat - and then drill again in the afternoon, running plays and tackling each other in scorching heat - often wearing 15 pounds of gear. This ritual of “two-a-days” – two practices a day - has come under scrutiny, because heatstroke deaths have gone up. Last year, a high-school student in Louisville, Kentucky collapsed in practice and died three days later. His temperature had hit 107 degrees.
This case is just one of many in recent years. According to the Annual Survey of Football Injury Research, 39 football players – both pro and amateur - have suffered heat-related deaths in the last 10 years. To help prevent tragedies such as these, the National Collegiate Athletic Association banned “two-a-days” on consecutive days, and during the first five days of practice. NATA - The National Athletic Trainer’s Association - did the same thing last June. However, guidelines for high school football still vary by state. Douglas Casa, who works with NATA, is hoping that high schools will soon follow their lead. Casa says the association recommends holding off on them, so players can get used to the heat during the first few practices. He believes part of the problem is that people stay indoors a lot more these days - in the air conditioning. So today’s players actually struggle to get acclimated to the heat. Some coaches say “two-a-days” are necessary - from day-one - to prepare players for the upcoming season. More practice means the athletes will learn the plays better, and build stamina to last through four quarters.