It is back-to-school time, which also means student-athletes and their parents are gearing up for practice and the upcoming sports season. Care providers say now is the time to get players prepared to not only increase performance, but also stay safe.
Taffy Teeter, administrator at Capital Orthopedic in Jackson, said calls from parents pick up just before the season, die down the first few weeks of school, then pick back up as the football season enters its third or fourth week. She said she isn’t sure why this is.
Bob Lodes, administrator at Mississippi Sports Medicine and Orthopaedic Center in Jackson, said he was not sure about calls from parents, but calls from coaches have definitely ramped up as football practice sessions neared. He attributes the increased calls to the high-profile and tragic heat-related death of a student-athlete last year in Mississippi.
Ready to play
Mike Williamson, director of sports medicine at Hattiesburg Clinic, echoes Lodes — coaches are ringing the clinic’s phones. He said this is the time of year when calls from parents and family and primary care physicians also increase. Williamson added that many concerns are from health screenings conducted in the spring.
“The main thing is to have a good physical screening done. We conduct ours before school lets out — in April and May,” Williamson said. “So, calls from doctors and parents are usually about anything we found in the spring; if they need to see a specialist or need further treatment.”
For athletes that are injured during the upcoming season, Hattiesburg Clinic is bringing back a service that was much utilized last year. Its Friday Night Clinic is a service offered to injured high school football players. The staff treats a multitude of injuries, and the initial physician visit is free.
Williamson estimated that the Friday Night Clinic saw, on average, four or five athletes per night. The injuries ran the gamut from sprains to fractures to mild concussions.
This year’s Friday Night Clinic will open August 29 and run through the end of the football season. The hours are 9:30 p.m. until 11:30 p.m., though Williamson said staff would stay on longer if needed, and athletes could be seen the following week if they could not get in Friday night.
Beat the heat
The first order of business for young athletes is dealing with Mississippi’s heat and humidity, and that issue is a major focus this year. The high school sports community suffered tragedy last year when a student died of heat-related complications. It also led to a lawsuit and closed/limited practices. Thus, football coaches are much more focused on heat issues this year.
Mississippi Sports Medicine is playing a pivotal role in a grassroots effort to get new information to area coaches, led by Mississippi Sports’ director of outreach and trainer Mike Wilkinson, who has an extensive background in sports medicine that includes the Sydney Olympics and the Pan Am Games. It is pushing the Mississippi High School Activities Association’s (MHSAA’s) new guidelines to prevent these types of tragedies.
The new guidelines advocate the use of two tools administrators, coaches and players can use to determine the risk of heat-related problems, as well as the monitoring of urine color by players to gauge their body’s stress from heat.
One tool is the wet bulb globe temperature (WBGT), a composite temperature used to estimate the effect of temperature, humidity and solar radiation on humans. Athletes as well as industrial hygienists and the military use WBGT to determine appropriate exposure levels to high temperatures.
According to the MHSAA, there are many inexpensive portable WBGT devices that can be purchased. More information is available at, www.misshsaa.com.
A second tool is the Heat Index. The index measures heat stress risk temperature as well as relative humidity. Coaches are urged to schedule practice breaks according to Heat Index readings.
In addition to getting proper rest, hydration and nutrition, the new guidelines push student-athletes to monitor the color of their urine. When water in the body is properly balanced, urine will be a pale yellow, or lemonade, color. With water loss, the urine darkens. The MHSAA is providing a chart so athletes can monitor their body’s condition.
Contact MBJ staff writer Wally Northway at firstname.lastname@example.org.