County heat policy comes in greeen, yellow and red Howard notebook

September 17, 1998|By Rick Belz | Rick Belz,SUN STAFF

The apparent heat-related death of a Washington boy during preseason football practice shook up a lot of county sports people and made them ask the question, could it happen here?

Howard County has a heat policy for athletic practices.

The Board of Education and several high schools have their own weather stations, and if the heat index is between 84-93, conditions are called "code green," mandating 10-minute rest periods for athletes every 45 minutes.

If the heat index is between 95-104, or "code yellow," practices bTC must include frequent water breaks, and games must have timeouts for water midway through quarters.

At 105 or above, or "code red," practices and games are canceled.

This is the policy's fourth year, and only one code red has been registered, county athletics coordinator Don Disney said. This season's highest index was 103.

Wilde Lake football coach Doug DuVall said he called an ambulance after one player collapsed from the heat during practice this season. The player revived by the time the ambulance arrived.

Wilde Lake and some other schools have a system of hoses so that players can soak their heads if they want to.

No county athlete has died from the heat, and most coaches use common sense when practicing in extreme heat.

"We tell them if they feel a cold sweat during practice to sit down, or if they need a drink, to get one. And they know it's not held against them. This is not the old days, when they were expected to gut it out," said River Hill soccer coach Bill Stara.

"Every coach takes precautions these days and keeps an eye on the athletes. Certain athletes do respond more poorly to heat than others."

Oakland Mills soccer coach Don Shea said that on especially hot days, he'll spend practice time on drills that don't require much running.

"You just use your reason," he said. "We don't take water breaks, because our kids can get water any time they want it."

More on health

The news that home run slugger Mark McGuire uses legal muscle-building supplements, creatine and androstenedione, raised questions about how many county high school athletes also use those substances, and whether doing so is a good idea.

It's hard to pin down how many athletes, if any, use them, because most would be reluctant to admit doing so.

Disney said that county coaches need to stay neutral on the use of supplements like creatine and andros.

"The state will eventually take a position on them," he said, adding that he'd be naive if he didn't think some kids were using them, however.

"They're legal. But you don't really need them to excel in high school, because the good athletes are going to stand out, anyway."

Although creatine and androstenedione are not specifically addressed, Howard County health policy forbids teachers from dispensing anything to kids -- even aspirin and vitamins.

Stara said he does not approve of creatine for high school athletes and does not know of any players using it.

"We don't approve of them using any drug or enhancement, unless it is prescribed for them by their doctor," he said. "This is high school athletics. I'm not here to train pro athletes."

Can't stand it

Howard High's stadium, home to the state's longest football winning streak of 47 games, has undergone a face-lift but not without some anxious moments.

Shortly after school ended last June, the worn wooden seats were torn out to make way for replacement metal seats made available after the Ravens moved from Baltimore's Memorial Stadium to their new Camden Yards showplace.

The bare metal supports stood forlornly all summer, however, until a week before Howard's home opener against Southwestern. That's when it was discovered that some of the stanchions were bowed and had to be repaired before the seats could be put in place.

The stands on the visitors side were ready for opening day last week but not the home stands.

Happily, two-thirds of the home stands were ready for Friday night's league opener against Centennial.

Pub Date: 9/17/98

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