ATHENS, Ga. (UPI) — Heat-related deaths among U.S. high-school and college football players tripled to three per year from 1994 to 2009, researchers said.
Climatologist Andrew Grundstein, associate professor of geography in the University of Georgia, and colleagues built a detailed database that included the temperature, humidity and time of day, as well as the height, weight and position for 58 football players who died during practice sessions from overheating, or hyperthermia.
The study, published in the International Journal of Biometeorology, found that for the eastern United States where most deaths occurred, morning heat index values were consistently higher in the latter half of the 30-year study period. Overall, Georgia led the nation in deaths with six fatalities.
“In general, on days the deaths occurred, the temperature was hotter and the air more humid than normal local conditions,” Grundstein said in a statement.
More than half of the players fell ill on days when practice ended before noon and the majority of the deaths occurred in August, when most high school and college football coaches ramp up preseason training.
The American College of Sports Medicine provides guidelines for the intensity of all sports practices based on a measurement called the wet bulb globe temperature and the heat index, but neither accounts for the protective pads and helmets football players wear during practice or the fact that football players are much larger today, Grundstein said.