John Klein: Practicing football in this summer's heat is just crazy
BY JOHN KLEIN Senior Sports Columnist
Friday, August 03, 2012
8/03/12 at 6:44 AM
Related story: Record-breaking heat.
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IT IS DANGEROUS to practice football when it is close to 100 degrees.
When temperatures soar up to 110 and above, as it has in recent weeks in northeastern Oklahoma, outdoor practice of any type is just crazy.
"I've been here since 1970, and I've never seen anything like this as we start football practices," said Dr. George Mauerman, team doctor at the University of Tulsa for more than three decades. "You simply cannot go out and practice football during the heat of the day. It is dangerous."
Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Tulsa have been practicing college football for decades in our state's brutal August heat. However, as evidenced by the records being shattered, what is happening this summer is off the charts.
"There is really nothing you can do when it gets this hot," said Dr. Jeff Emel, a longtime sports physician in Tulsa who played football for OU in the 1970s. "This is something beyond what we've seen.
"There are guidelines for heat put out by the American College of Sports Medicine. We are way past the black flag warning."
Let us be as clear as possible. There is nothing safe, and we do mean nothing, about practicing outside in the kind of temperatures that have made Tulsa and Oklahoma the hottest spot in the United States in recent weeks.
"Coaches have to adjust or alter the schedule," said John Joslin, director of sports medicine at Oral Roberts University. "We have volleyball, soccer teams and cross country runners starting up in the next week. The message is the same. You have to avoid the heat.
"You have to hydrate and cool your athletes. This level of heat is dangerous for everyone, just not athletes."
Football coaches, from the Sooners, Cowboys and Golden Hurricane down to peewee football, need to be aware that the current heat wave isn't just uncomfortable. It is lethal.
This isn't about toughening up your team. This is about protecting your team from the dangers of this extreme heat.
As a result, sports medical professionals are being even more cautious of what is being recommended for the start of football practice. Doctors and trainers recommend extreme caution as colleges and high schools start practicing football
By extreme caution, the medical professionals are saying do not even think about going outside for practice during the afternoon or early evening when temperatures are soaring over 100 degrees.
Mauerman said TU is following the guidelines, including moving all practices off the Chapman Stadium turf to the grass fields north of the stadium. In addition, practices will be at 7 a.m., not 7 p.m. as has been the case in the past.
"The turf adds 10 or 20 degrees," said Emel. "Plus, 7 a.m. is far cooler, perhaps the coolest part of the day right now."
Mauerman said the practice schedule has to be altered.
"You hear people talk about getting turf burn, but when it is this hot, you can get a thermal burn just by being on the turf," said Mauerman. "Evening is not good when it is this hot. The hottest part of the day is around 5 to 6 p.m., so practicing at 7 p.m. is a bad idea.
"We need all coaches to be aware of this. I think people around the state are doing their best to make sure everyone is educated about this intense heat. It just isn't safe."
In recent weeks, temperatures have hovered near or above 100 at 7 p.m. and later.
"I don't expect schools to cancel practice," Emel said. "They just need to be smart about it."
Remember those old two-a-days and three-a-days of practice? Forget it. Make it once a day, and make it at the absolute coolest part of the day.
Even going for early morning practice, with lows in the mid- to upper-80s, it is still hot.
"We've worked with (TU) Coach (Bill) Blankenship dating back to his days at Union High School," said Emel. "He understands. I remember cutting back to one long morning practice at Union when other schools were still doing two-a-days.
"So Bill certainly understands the situation. We need all coaches to understand how serious this heat is this summer."
Joslin said he's talked with ORU coaches to make sure the practice schedules are adjusted to avoid the heat as best as possible.
"Our cross country runners go out at 5 a.m. and get their work in early before the heat hits," said Joslin. "We have to make sure to alter our schedules to make it safe.
"I've lived here pretty much my whole life. It is always hot around here in August. But when you start talking about highs over 110, and it is 89 degrees for a low like it was earlier this week, it is crazy. Stay hydrated. Stay inside. You simply can't mess around with this kind of heat."
Original Print Headline: Football practice in this heat is just crazy
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Head trainer Dave Polanski (top right) adds ice to a tub as players Derek Patterson (right) and Trent Dupy cool off after a practice session at the University of Tulsa. MATT BARNARD/Tulsa World
Quarterback Cody Green (left) passes with protection from Brian DeShane at a practice session at the University of Tulsa on Thursday. MATT BARNARD/Tulsa World
Second-year TU head coach Bill Blankenship talks to his players at a practice session Thursday. The Golden Hurricane opens its season Sept. 1 at Iowa State. MATT BARNARD/Tulsa World
Dr. George Mauerman: The TU team doctor said the school is altering its football practice schedules to make it as safe as possible. For more Scorching heat continues; officials monitor water usage.