How Football PlayersHandle the Heat During Practice

August 2, 2006 -- Posted at 5:04 p.m. CDT

JONESBORO, AR -- It's something that seems to happen every year, an athlete becomes a victim of the intense heat.

This year alone, three high school football players have died because of the heat.

Right now there is an extreme heat advisory over much of the nation, including Arkansas and Missouri.

So, what are coaches doing here in Region 8 to help prevent something like heat stroke from happening to one of their players?

Wednesday is the third day of practice for the Jonesboro High School Hurricanes.

"Anytime we need a water break, especially with our bigger guys, we try to water them as much as we can," said offensive line coach Perry Darby.

And that is something health experts recommend.

"They get water breaks every 20 minutes.  We have athletes that are prone to heat illness that we monitor during practice and after practice," said Paula Parnell, a sports medicine trainer with St. Bernards.

The players don't practice during the extreme heat of the day.

"We're going two times a day.  We've been going two hours in the morning and two hours in the afternoon, but we've kind of switched today.  We're only going to go an hour and a half this morning and 45 minutes this afternoon on the field," said Darby.

Sports trainer Paula Parnell is at every practice and every game to watch over the players.

"We have some athletes that give 110% every practice, and those guys, they never give up, they never want to take a break... those guys are the ones that are prone to heat illness," said Parnell.

"It's not really that bad if you get used to it a little bit, but you should be sure to drink a lot of water.  It's really hard, in two days I've already caught a few cramps," said Hurricane player D.J. King.

According to Arkansas law, players can only wear shorts and a shirt for the first three days of practice, but on day four, the pads go on.

"With pads we're probably going to have 15 extra pounds on us, and all that weight is really hot.  The helmets are already hot, but drink plenty of water and you'll be fine," said King.

And these guys know what to watch for in themselves.

"You kind of stumble around a little bit... you get dizzy.  If you don't stop, you'll fall down," said King.

If your temperature rises above 100.4 degrees, you could suffer from heat exhaustion, nausea, headaches and confusion.

And, if your temperature rises above 104 degrees, you could have heat stroke, seizures, heart failure, and loss of consciousness.