Archive for Wednesday, August 8, 2001

NFL star’s death has local coaches looking for ways to beat the heat

August 8, 2001

Because of the recent tragedy that struck the NFL, football players and coaches across the nation are reevaluating their workouts in the summer months.

Minnesota's all-pro lineman Korey Stringer died because of heat exhaustion last week at preseason camp. Stringer's death opened the eyes of several football programs around the nation, including those right here in the Bonner Springs/Basehor area.

"Hopefully everyone is very aware at the seriousness of practicing in the extreme heat," Basehor-Linwood High School athletic director Joe Keeler said. "It's unfortunate that sometimes it takes something this serious to heighten people's awareness."

Both BLHS coach Paul Brown and Bonner Springs coach Lew Kasselman said Stringer's tragic death opened their eyes a little more, but that it would not change the way they do things. The reason is simple - both coaches already monitor their players very closely.

Brown said at his practices the players are given plenty of water breaks and are encouraged to keep an eye on one another, looking for things such as dizziness or pale faces. If a player feels or sees these things, Brown is informed and the player is given a break. Brown said the school district and administration are also heavily involved in making sure players are safe.

"Our administration and district set policies about when we can't practice," Brown said. "So if we get the real excessive heat, they'll just tell us we can't practice until after five or after six."

Kasselman said similar precautions are taken at BSHS and that breaks and postponements are the best way to beat the heat.

"We keep water at every work station, and it will be available any time they want it," Kasselman said. "We'll also schedule in some breaks for rest time. As coaches we take very good care of our kids. We watch them, we give them water and we make sure everything is going well."

Stringer's death, although rare, is not an isolated incident in recent times. Since 1995, 18 athletes have died because of heat exhaustion, and Keeler said being aware is the key to preventing it.

"It should raise everyone's awareness, period," Keeler said. "The student-athlete's safety is a paramount to us."

The autopsy performed on Stringer will not be released for a few days, but doctors who tried to revive him - which included 15 at one time - said Stringer's body temperature had reached as high as 108.8 degrees, more than 10 degrees above normal body temperature.

Brown said he is used to monitoring players for heat exhaustion because Kansas is notorious for having hot and humid summers. Furthermore, he has come up with several solutions that have worked. Water breaks, misting machines, later practices and even going inside in the extreme heat, have all been used by Brown in the past. He said, however, that nature itself can offer elements that help.

"If you've got a little breeze, that helps," Brown said. "And if you don't you've got to get into the shade. I like to let kids wet themselves down completely and then go sit in the shade for a while. It really does cool you down."

Practices for all high school sports, including football, will get underway on Monday, Aug. 13, and because of the Korey Stringer incident, this year's practices will be watched a little more closely.

"It doesn't really change what you do," Kasselman said. "It just makes you more aware. As a coach the safety of the players is first and this time of year you have to be smart."

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