WASHINGTON, June 27 (UPI) -- As summer football practices approach -- and eventually late summer "two-a-days" -- the National Athletic Trainers' Association (NATA) thought it was a good time to update their guidelines for preventing and treating heat stroke.
An average of 12 high school and college football players die each year on the field, but most fatalities originate on the practice field, not on game day -- the result of heat strokes, not violent tackles. In fact, the number of heat stroke deaths among high school athletes continues to rise every year, and the CDC says its the leading cause of death and disability among high school students.
The new guidelines are an attempt to reverse these worrisome trends.
"The biggest change is the concept of cool first, transport second," Douglas Casa told NPR. Casa, a researcher at the University of Connecticut's Korey Stringer Institute, was instrumental in helping NATA recraft its safety guidelines. The Korer Stringer Institute is named for the former Minnesota Vikings player who passed away after he fell ill from heat stroke in 2001.
Heat stroke is the medical emergency that occurs when the body's temperature surpasses 105 degrees Fahrenheit, leading to consequences that include nausea, seizures, confusion, disorientation, loss of consciousness and coma.
In addition to cooling before transporting, the new guidelines also stress the obvious importance of hydration and -- the less obvious -- importance of acclimating to the heat.
"Almost all heat stroke deaths happen within the first three to four days that people are out doing something new," Casa said.
Now, NATA will focus on getting the word out to football coaches and athletic staff at high schools and colleges around the country.