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Expect Shorter, Fewer Football Practices

ATLANTA - The Georgia High School Association has approved new requirements designed to help high school football players cope with the heat during summer practices. The heat policy gives each athlete five days of practice with no pads to get used to the heat, humidity and intense activity. After that, teams can practice in full gear twice a day, up to a total of five hours. But no back-to-back days with two practices, and no more three-a-day practices.

GHSA Executive Director Ralph Swearingin said the new standards are three years in the making.

“When we set these policies out, we have no guarantees that we won’t have any isolated individuals who will have some difficulty,” Swearngin said. “But we think we’ll have steps in place that they won’t be put into extreme conditions, and our people will be better able to monitor and know how to handle those situations.”

Two football players died during practice last August in Georgia. Swearngin said the research guiding the new standards was well underway by last season. University of Georgia researchers reported last month heat-related deaths have tripled in the last 15 years and Georgia has the most of any state.

Swearngin said conditioning drills are often most dangerous for players.

“[Those are drills like] 40-yard sprints or 100-yard sprints or running the stairs or mat drills under extreme heat conditions,” he said. “We’re interested in making sure that the duration of time, the intensity of activity is taken into account.”

The rules also standardize how the heat is measured with a type of thermometer that gauges temperature, humidity, and the amount of heat from the sun absorbed by a player’s skin.

The GHSA executive committee also approved broad guidelines that dictate the level of activity for every sport based on a sliding scale of the heat level.