5 Ways to Minimize Heat Stroke During Summer Football Practice

Summer football practice and training camps will be ramping up at all levels (youth, high school, college, and pro) later this month. While this is an exciting time for the athletes and coaches as preparation for the upcoming season beings, it is also important to remember that peak summer heat presents the most dangerous conditions for football players.

Football players face a significantly higher risk of heat stroke than other athletes for several reasons:

Due to these factors, heat stroke has resulted in the unnecessary deaths of 68 football players over the last 25 years. Due to their excessive size, offensive and defensive lineman are most susceptible to heat stroke, and they have accounted for 9 out of the 11 heat stroke deaths over the past five years. It is important to understand that this is an issue impacting football players of all levels – from youth through the NFL. After Minnesota Vikings offensive tackle Korey Stringer died of heat stroke in 2001, there has been increased emphasis on addressing this serious problem during summer football practices.

heat-related deaths in the US infographic

Find the Perfect Portacool Outdoor Evaporative Cooler for Your Team

At Portacool, we offer dozens of different models to help each of our clients to find the perfect evaporative cooler for their business. Here are some of the models that work well in outdoor sports settings.

Jetstream 270

Maintain shop comfort with the most powerful evaporative cooler in the Portacool Jetstream series. The Portacool Jetstream™ 270 packs the biggest cooling punch by combining impressive airflow with the highest quality evaporative media on the market. The Jetstream 270 is perfect for cooling spaces where traditional methods of cooling are inefficient - shops, warehouses, outdoor events, athletic facilities and more. We do NOT recommend this product being used inside homes or closed spaces where no ventilation is available.

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Jetstream 260

Keep work areas cool and comfortable with the Portacool Jetstream™ 260. This evaporative cooler features greater airflow and a unique cooler design that provides a perfectly calculated media surface area via its evaporative media set to achieve maximum cooling comfort. Perfect for cooling spaces where traditional methods of cooling are inefficient - shops, warehouses, outdoor events, athletic facilities and more. We do NOT recommend this product being used inside homes or closed spaces where no ventilation is available.

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Prevention Is the Best Treatment for Heat Stroke

Heat stroke is one of the most serious forms of heat-related illness. It occurs when your body is unable to sufficiently shed heat, causing the core temperature to rise to dangerous levels. Once heat stroke occurs, you face serious consequences which may potentially include death. For this reason, prevention is the best approach to minimizing the damage caused by heat stroke.

It is crucial to be aware of the warning signs of heat stroke. Heat exhaustion, which results in cramps, weakness, fatigue and nausea, often precedes heat stroke. If you see someone exhibiting signs of heat exhaustion, pull them from practice immediately so they can rest in the shade, drink plenty of fluids and cool down with cool towels.

Other warning signs of heat stroke include:

Heat stroke should be treated as a life-threatening medical emergency. Remove any player exhibiting signs of heat stroke from practice immediately, take steps to cool their body temperature, and call 911 immediately.

Important Steps to Take to Minimize the Risk of Heat Stroke

When setting up your summer football practices, it is crucial to be mindful of the serious ways the intense heat impacts players. There are 5 important steps you should take to significantly reduce the risk of heat stroke among your players. Due to the life-threatening consequences of heat stroke, these steps should be considered essential for all football programs.

1.     Gradually Ramp Up Practices to Allow for Proper Acclimatization to Heat

evaporative coolers for outdoor sportsThe vast majority of deaths from heat stroke happen during the first week of practice. During this time, football players are still adjusting to the rigors of intense exertion under extreme heat while wearing gear that traps in this heat. Therefore, heat acclimatization is one of the most important steps you can take to safeguard the health of your players. This allows players’ bodies to gradually adapt to the heat, preventing them from taking on too much before they are physically equipped to handle the stress on their body.

As part of the acclimatization process, players will be able to more effectively maintain:

The key to proper heat acclimatization is to gradually ramp up the frequency and intensity of practices over the first two weeks of practice. This is accomplished by:

2.     Emphasize Proper Hydration

Proper hydration is a critical component of your heat stroke prevention plan. A well hydrated body will have a lower risk of large increases in core body temperature when exercising in extreme heat. It will also reduce weight loss during an intense practice. A loss of 3% of body weight during practice places a player at elevated risk of heat stroke.

Implement the following hydration schedule for your players:

football player staying hydrated during practice in hot temperaturesWater should be the primary source of hydration. However, sports drinks containing an appropriate carbohydrate and sodium formulation may be used as a supplement, especially in situations where:

Keep in mind that sports drinks should not contain a carbohydrate formulation greater than 6-8%. The sodium content should fall within a range of .4 to 1.2 grams per liter. Avoid energy drinks or other beverages containing stimulants such as caffeine or ephedrine, as these substances can increase dehydration.

A good way to gauge dehydration levels in players is to have them monitor their urine volume and color. Regular volume that is light colored or clear indicates proper hydration. Small amounts of dark urine are a sign of dehydration. You can use this hydration chart to determine when players may require additional fluids.

3.     Modify Practice for Environmental Conditions

The outside air temperature is only one component impacting the environmental conditions during football practice. Other contributing factors include humidity, wind speed, sun angle and cloud coverage. To provide the safest conditions for your players, all these factors should be considered when determining what modifications may be required during a particular practice day.

While many people use the heat index to determine environmental conditions, this measurement only factors air temperature and humidity in its calculations. A more accurate way to measure the impact of environmental temperature on your football team is to use the wet bulb globe temperature (WBGT), which includes all of the factors listed above. You can purchase a WBGT meter to gather this information. Make sure to take the WBGT reading prior to practice and throughout practice if the temperature is rising while players are engaged in strenuous exercise.

Use the following guidelines to modify your practices based on WBGT readings for a particular day:

4.     Take Special Precautions for At-Risk Players

taking precautions for football players at risk of heat strokeMake sure you take special precautions for any players who are at elevated risk of heat stroke. These may include individuals who:

These players should not be required to participate in preseason fitness runs, timed distance runs, or sustained sprints on the field, hills, or stairs for the first few days of practice. Monitor these players closely for warning signs of heat stroke, and gradually allow them to ramp up their participation in these activities as their bodies can handle it.

5.     Utilize Cooling Technology

While all the tactics discussed above are important to ensure safe conditions for football players practicing in extreme heat, it is also crucial to utilize cooling technology that can help players keep their core temperature down during practice. A 2008 study conducted at the University of Florida found that blowing cool, dry air through football shoulder pads will help reduce core body temperature and heart rate significantly, which will lower the risk of heat stroke. According to the study, forced air under the uniform, rather than misted, cool air blown onto the uniform, will deliver the most effective results.

In addition to utilizing this tactic, you should set up some portable evaporative coolers along the sidelines at practice. This will deliver a massive amount of cool air to players during their break, making it much easier for them to maintain an appropriate core temperature throughout practice.

Jetstream 250

Step up the cooling game with the Portacool Jetstream™ 250. Cool larger groups of employees, or use multiple to increase overall airflow. User-friendly features include easy-roll casters, cord wrap and streamlined maintenance. Perfect for cooling spaces where traditional methods of cooling are inefficient – shops, warehouses, outdoor events, athletic facilities and more. We do NOT recommend this product being used inside homes or closed spaces where no ventilation is available.

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Jetstream 240

The Portacool Jetstream™ 240 provides maximum adaptability for cooling wherever needed. This evaporative cooler is not only easy to move, it can fit in the tightest of spaces. Liquid level indicator and intuitive control panel make operation a breeze. Ideal for cooling small, multi-person stations or spot cooling.

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Keep Your Football Players Safe with a Portacool

Whether you are working with youth, high school, college or professional football players, heat stroke is a serious issue that must be addressed. Portacool evaporative coolers provide one of the most effective ways to help football players stay safe when practicing during the peak summer heat.

Portacool has been recognized as an industry leader in evaporative cooling technology since our inception in 1990. All our evaporative coolers are manufactured locally at our Center, Texas facility. We have distributors in every state, as well as in 56 countries. We offer a wide range of evaporative cooler models to address the specific needs of your football program.

Portacool has been helping football players stay safe in the summer heat for years. Our evaporative coolers have become essential gear at practices and games for the University of North Texas football team, among others. These football programs have significantly improved their ability to keep their players safe by using Portacools along their sideline.

You can use our online tool to find the right Portacool for your specific needs.

If you want to buy a Portacool evaporative cooler to keep your football players safe this summer, please visit a local retailer or contact us today to learn more about the options we offer.