By NATHAN DEENJuly 18, 2012
FORT BENNING, Ga. (July 18, 2012) -- After two Georgia teens died from heat-related illnesses in 2011, the Georgia High School Association is implementing a new policy to make sure another death never happens again.
That means Columbus and Fort Benning coaches and players may see more indoor practice in the weeks leading up to the 2012 football season.
With the help of research teams from state colleges, including the University of Georgia, the GHSA formed the policy based on the Wet Bulb Globe Temperature Index, a comprehensive measurement, not listed in degrees, of heat, humidity and solar radiation, according to the GHSA website.
"The trainers felt it was the best method to use," said Dennis Payne, an associate director at GHSA. "It's a more accurate account … you can get a clear idea of how the heat is affecting the body."
Coaches or trainers for each team must take a Wet Bulb reading before each practice. If that reading is 92 or higher, practice must be canceled or moved indoors. According to the website, 92 feels like a 104-105 degree heat index.
Or, teams may have to change their practice times to later in the evening because the most dangerous temperatures of the day are between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., WRBL Channel 3 meteorologist Bob Jeswald said.
"If you're talking about 90-92 (on the Wet Bulb) with a 68 dew point, you're talking about dangerous conditions for the body to cool down," he said.
"It could take a matter of 10 or 15 minutes for a heat illness to happen."
Chattahoochee County head coach Russell Morgan said he will try the latter option and reschedule afternoon practice to 6 p.m. The Panthers spent several days last year indoors just by following their county school board policy.
"I'd rather be outside on the field, I hate being in the gym, but if that's what we got to do, that's what we got to do," Morgan said.
But if some teams can only practice immediately after school, they may not get as much time in full pads as other squads, and the policy may be more of an inconvenience, Jeswald said.
"If they go by (the GHSA) standard, I would say 'yes'," he said. "Just your typical summer down here … if they're erring on the side of caution, I think they would have more practices indoors."
Though Jeswald said he thought having a policy was a good idea and agreed that players shouldn't be on the field at a 92 reading, he said it's more important to make students aware of heat conditions and able to recognize symptoms of heat illness.
"You can't just take that number and say that's it," he said. "There is no magic number. I think it's more how you go about practice, what time of day and education."
While holding a 6 p.m. no-pads practice July 10 along with Hardaway and Shaw at Hardaway, Morgan recalled how things were different when he began coaching in 1988.
"You just didn't take water breaks," he said. "You may have midway through practice. Now we have water readily available. We never practice for 20 minutes without a five-minute break."
Morgan doesn't think the decrease in full-pads practice time will make players more prone to injury or slow to acclimate to the physicality of the game, he said.
"I think the biggest things for injuries is making sure you stay in the weight room in the summer and conditioning," he said.
Shaw head coach Kyle Adkins agreed and said players will be ready and want to play, no matter the situation.
Adkins said his players have an advantage practicing at Shaw because the surrounding trees provide shade to parts of the field.
"When we water them down, their breaks are always in the shade," he said. "We've made some changes to our practice field to add some more shade."
Morgan, who coached at Washington-Wilkes in Washington, Ga., before becoming head coach at Chattco in 2011, said North Georgia schools may not be affected by the policy as much as those down south, where the humidity is higher. In most cases, he said, that wouldn't matter because the majority of those schools wouldn't play each other until the playoffs.
"I guess it would, though, if you had to play them early in the year because they will have more time on the field in pads than we will," he said.
However, researchers found that the temperature only averaged a seven-degree difference between the north and south areas of the state, Payne said.
"It's not that much of a difference as people make it out to be," he said. "This policy was studied at length and it's going to be for the good of the North and the South."
Payne said coaches should be thoroughly familiar with the policy. For more information on the policy, visit www.ghsa.net.