High school football players battling against heat on the gridiron as practices start

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MAYFIELD HEIGHTS, OH - Local high school football players are gearing up and starting practices this week as temperatures are heating up. Players guzzled water amid drills on the turf at Mayfield High School Tuesday.

"There's always water on the football field here at Mayfield, and we just try to keep our kids hydrated and ready to go at their full capacity," head coach Ross Bandiera said.

Bandiera said the team starts practices early, before the full heat of the day sets in, and a trainer monitors kids for symptoms of heat illness. Last week, the team cut its minicamp short when temperatures on the turf reached 115 degrees.

"We're not going to let the heat get to us, but we're also not stupid, we're going to kind of take care of the kids first and foremost, so if it does get too hot up here, we'll cut things a little bit, do a little more chalk talk and film study," Bandiera said.

The extreme heat amid two-a-day practices can be dangerous.

"There are very few things that can actually take the life of an athlete, and one of those things is heat illness, so it's something to stay vigilant about and try and stay on top of in terms of preventing it from occurring," said Michael Salata, M.D., an associate team physician for the Cleveland Browns with University Hospitals Sports Medicine Institute.

Salata said prevention should start with athletes drinking 16 oz of water several hours before outdoor practice and 8 oz of water a half hour before, then taking water breaks during practice to maintain that pre-hydration.

"Probably the most important thing is having a keen awareness for what the symptoms of heat illness are: disorientation, confusion, unresponsiveness," Salata said. "If a player is acting strange, that's something your trainer wants to be familiar with and be quick to identify."

He said schools should have an emergency action plan for how to quickly cool athletes' core body temperatures if they are suffering from heat stroke, such as an ice or cold water tub.

Parents can also talk with kids about symptoms and educate them about the importance of alerting someone if they know they're experiencing those symptoms.

University Hospitals Sports Medicine Institute has a hotline available at 216-983-PLAY (7529) for anyone with questions or concerns to receive an expert opinion about heat illness or other sports injuries.

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