On a hot Santa Clarita day, you can work up a sweat just standing outside on a sidewalk. For an athlete practicing on an artificial turf field in August, it can feel much hotter. Glistening skin can turn to dripping sweat in nearly no time at all. According to a longitudinal study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that spanned from 2005 to 2009, heat illness affects football players more than any other athlete. The CDC reported that an average of 4.5 per 100,000 football players across 100 different schools in the United States that were studied had suffered a heat illness that caused them to miss more than a day of practice. The illness usually began less than two hours after the start of practice and mostly affected players who had an overweight or obese body mass index. The prime time for heat illness is August, said the study.
With an average August temperature of 95 degrees, according to santaclarita.com, Santa Clarita is no exception to that finding. The CIF has guidelines in place to combat heat illness, including tips on hydration and heat acclimation. It’s recommended that players take water breaks every 30-45 minutes, with preferably chilled water. But hydration doesn’t stop there. “Hydrate the day before,” said Golden Valley defensive back and running back DJ Turner. “Not during practice but the day before.” Turner said that he had never experienced symptoms of heat exhaustion or any other heat-related illness. Grizzlies coach Dan Kelley takes the weather seriously and pays close attention not only to the temperature, but also to the heat index, which factors in humidity. He adjusts practices as necessary. “We’ve had situations where we’ve modified practice where we’re in full pads, we’ll go to helmets only,” said Kelley. “We’ve modified it where we take the helmets off, we’ve even modified it to when we go indoors.” The CIF recommends that the intensity of practice should gradually increase over a period of seven to 14 days and that equipment should be slowly introduced as well. “It’s very important (to pay attention to heat) because a kid will be a kid, and he doesn’t want to show weakness and he’s pushing himself when he’s really not feeling well because the heat affects everybody differently,” Kelley said.