Player deaths in heat resonate on fields here Coaches emphasizing water, breaks, fitness

August 28, 1998|By Lem Satterfield | Lem Satterfield,SUN STAFF Sun staff writers Stan Rappaport and Pat O'Malley $l contributed to this article.

Wilde Lake High coach Doug DuVall called it "the one fear in coaching that something like this happens."

Poly coach John Hammond said, "That really sent shivers," and he decided to have his players observe a moment of silence at yesterday's football practice.

They were among many local coaches and players who were shocked by the death of a 13-year-old freshman football player from St. John's College High School Tuesday night at the Children's National Medical Center in Washington.

Daniel Bell of Silver Spring collapsed on Aug. 18 on during the second day of football practice.

Bell is thought to be the nation's fourth high school football player to have died from heat-related symptoms this summer, though his cause of death is pending an examination by the District of Columbia's medical examiner.

Two Kansas players died last week, and one in North Carolina perished earlier this month.

Almost every year, a few young players suffer heat-related deaths.

"Whenever an athlete goes down like that, it just tells you it can happen anytime. You try to provide all the preventive measures, but it does happen," said Baltimore City athletic director Bob Wade, a former football coach. "It really hits home, and my heart goes out to the family."

The deaths, coupled with recent temperatures above 90 degrees, have caused concern among parents, players, and athletic officials and heightened the importance of safety measures.

In Anne Arundel County, coaches "need to be cognizant of the heat and wherever necessary curtail practices or take them [players] in the shade or inside for meetings," said Marlene Kelly, the county's coordinator of physical education.

Schools such as Dunbar, Mount St. Joseph, Patterson and Poly have rigged up fountains that serve several players at once. Poly's portable fountain, for example, is a plastic pipe with 10 holes drilled into it and is running throughout the duration of practice.

The past few days, "because of the heat, we've had to modify our practices," Hammond said. "It's been shorts and T-shirts, mostly walk-through drills. We give them 10-minute water breaks, and we've been telling them to make sure they've eaten well before practice."

DuVall said last Saturday, when Wilde Lake scrimmaged Calvert Hall, that he was "more concerned about the heavy JV kids in the heat than whether we were going to win or lose."

'Pre-hydration a must'

Dunbar coach Ben Eaton, 6 feet 1, 280 pounds, who takes medication for "a blood pressure problem," said that "pre-hydration is a must for our kids and everyone on our staff." Eaton said he and assistant coaches Lynn Badham and Anderson Powell are certified in first aid and cardiopulmonary resuscitation.

"In this heat, you should be watching for the signs of fatigue -- kids standing straight up without bending their knees, [frequently] putting their hands on their hips," Eaton said. "Give the kid the benefit of the doubt just to be on the safe side."

On Tuesday, when temperatures soared above 90 degrees, Dunbar senior lineman Charles Gibbs said he "drank about 16 ounces of water before practice, took about four or five water breaks, and drank about 32 ounces of water after practice.

"I know that seems like a lot, but it's not that much when you're sweating it all out on a hot day and getting drained like I was," said Gibbs, 6 feet 2, 250 pounds. "It's been real hot, and that just saps all your energy."

North County coach Chuck Markiewicz says he and his staff pay attention to the heat but have "never had to cut practice short because of the heat."

"When it's hot, it's practice as usual," Markiewicz said, "but we take more water breaks, or just go in shells," referring to shoulder pads and helmets.

Since 1989, all public school coaches have been required by the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association to complete a one-credit course in "the prevention and care of athletic injuries."

An MPSSAA task force recommended two hours of study on key topics such as conditioning, hot- and cold-weather training, fluid problems, running and other forms of exercise.

Lisa Curry, a full-time, certified trainer, teaches the course in Baltimore County.

"In most respects, preventive measures are the best approach you can take," she said. "With the heat and the padded equipment in football, you're looking for the player who is not acclimated. And with the time off during the summer, that's just about everybody."

Curry said Baltimore County requires an emergency medical technician or a trainer to be present at all football games, and some county schools such as Eastern Tech, go even further to have trainers at all practices.

Wilde Lake's DuVall said along with making plenty of water available, he stresses the importance of a "good, complete physical by a competent physician."

In Baltimore, physical exams were made available through Union Memorial Hospital's Sports Medicine Clinic and were overseen by Shane Pak, a hospital physician.

As components of the standard physical, Pak said players were asked questions on any medical conditions and that "it is very important that the players or the parents have a thorough knowledge of their personal medical history and truthfully answer questions" concerning allergies and heart problems.

lTC At Dunbar, the day before the first official practice, an orientation for parents and players included viewing a 30-minute film dealing with injuries that can occur in football. They were given information dealing with hydration, among other things.

"As an athletic director," said Dunbar's Barbara Allen, "you want to be able to look every parent in the eyes and say, 'I'm doing

everything I can to ensure your child's safety.' "

Pub Date: 8/28/98

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