Deadly heat prompts changes at local football practices

Each local school district has its own policies in place for teams when it gets hot. (WRDW-TV / Aug. 3, 2011)

Each local school district has its own policies in place for teams when it gets hot. (WRDW-TV / Aug. 3, 2011)

News 12 at First at Five / Wednesday Aug. 3, 2011

MARTINEZ, Ga. -- Just days into being able to practice with helmets and pads, and two Georgia football players have already lost their lives because of the heat.

A 16-year-old football player from Fitzgerald, Ga., collapsed in Florida Tuesday morning while he was at football camp. His friends found him on the floor in his cabin.

A second 16-year-old collapsed after practice last week in Henry County. He died at the hospital Tuesday.

Doctors say both football players died from heat-related illnesses.

It's a huge warning for local teams to be extra careful during this record-breaking heat.

If you want to win games, practice is important, but this year most area teams have changed up their practice schedules to make safety their priority.

The sun is barely up Wednesday morning, but the Lakeside Panthers are already working up a sweat.

But they're also making sure players stay safe.

"I always tell our kids, if you want a drink of water. Tell me," said Lakeside Head Coach Jarrett Troxler. "If it's in the middle of a drill, go get some water."

Troxler can tell when enough is enough.

"I can look at a kid and tell it's time to back off and you have to be smart, that's why we go in the morning," Troxler said.

Across town at Augusta Christian, the Lions are also trying to beat the heat.

Lions Head Coach Keith Walton said the team takes plenty of breaks.

"It's nothing to play with, a win and loss is not as important as someone's life, so I wouldn't want that on my conscience," Walton said.

Both coaches say things have changed since they were on the field.

"We practiced three times a day, and we're told we couldn't get water and all that kind of stuff but now days, you can't do that and you have to be smart," Troxler said.

He says one problem is that kids and teenagers don't play outside as much anymore.

"All the luxuries we have for our young people today has kinda got them where they don't get out in the heat as much," Troxler said.

Lakeside's senior quarterback Mark Weidenaar said the team practices in the morning to try to avoid the heat as much as they can.

"If we train out here in the heat now and hopefully get used to it and train our bodies to be in it, hopefully it doesn't affect us as much," Weidenaar said.

The Georgia High School Association says the two deaths are the first in five years in the state. They are looking into their restrictions to see if changes need to be made.

Each local school district has its own policies in place for teams when it gets hot.

For Columbia County schools, athletes can't be outdoors if the heat index reaches 101 degrees. Augusta Christian is in the South Carolina Independent School Association. They've made schools cut back on two-a-day practices to keep the kids safe.

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