(Columnist’s note: This is the second article about two-a-day practices as it relates to Texas football practices. The information I present is my interpretation of researching exertional heat exhaustion. By no means do I profess to be an expert.)
In the Copperas Cove ISD, the community is blessed to have three certified athletic trainers that present the highest level of expertise.
The problem presented to American football is that deaths with football players have grown significantly in the last decade related to heat illness. Body core temperatures rise during activity. Excessively hot and humid conditions, equipment that restricts the cooling of the body and intense workouts are factors contributing to heat related illnesses.
Research has detected that deaths have risen in the last decade. Heat conditions and acclimation of athletes are factors that research shows to be the important variables in conducting practices.
Evidence of eight peer-reviewed journal articles written within the last five years indicates that summer two-a-day practices have the most deaths occurring for heat related illnesses. Heat and humidity conditions, equipment restricting the body cooling, and intensity of workouts are contributing factors to heat related illnesses. The review of literature clearly shows that coaches can take steps to minimize the risk of death associated with summer workouts.
Coaches have the task of providing safe and best practice guidelines for the athletes. Practice times during the early season are a critical component to consider for conducting practices.
Safety of the athlete and concerns for their health are considerations of practices times. Football practices begin in the late summer, which is traditionally the hottest time of the year. The length of the practice, heat, humidity and the acclimation of the athletes are considerations when conducting practice sessions.
Excessively hot and humid conditions are considerations for changes in the practice times or cancelling of a practice. Intensity of workouts should be considered during these extreme conditions. Athletes run the risk of overheating the body in the dog days of summer and that death from heat related illnesses can be minimized.
The intensity of the workouts and the multiple practice sessions on consecutive days of working out causes extreme stress on the body. The National Sports Athletic Association Medicine Advisory Committee (SAAMAC) recommends that coaches should schedule practices in the cooler times of the day, provide water, and frequent rest breaks. The committee also said the practice sessions should be limited to three two-a-day practices per week.
If a coach schedules consecutive days of practice, the number of consecutive days to conduct practice should not exceed six days. The University Interscholastic League initiated a new plan for 2013, which limits consecutive two-a-day workouts.
Why have two-a-day practices? Two-a-day practice sessions are a reality in American football training camps. It is a tradition from the high school and collegiate ranks to the National Football League.
At every level of competition, the American football season begins in August. Given the intense physical nature of the sport and the technical demands of integrating specific positions into a team concept, it is common for the preseason practices to provide repetitious practices and conditioning intensity.
Two-a-day practice sessions physically prepare the athletes for the grueling season. Athletes cannot train at a maximum level throughout an entire season. The athlete and team perform best when they are trained to peak at certain periods during the season. There is a gradual build up to a player’s peak performance. A recovery and rebuilding phase follows a player’s peak performance.
The beginning of two-a-days practice sessions physically prepare athletes for the beginning of the season. This allows players to acclimate to the weather conditions, review the position skills and team concepts.
Dr. Jack Welch has been a college and high school coach for 38 years. He can be reached at email@example.com.