Dave Davis, NewsOn6
TULSA, Oklahoma – In the midst of a record-breaking summer across Oklahoma, Tulsa area high schools are taking special precautions to prepare for the first high school football practices of the season.
Since July 26, at least four high school football players and a coach have died due to heat related illness and Oklahoma schools and coaches are doing everything they can to prevent more heat related cases from happening.
Tuesday marks the first day high schools are allowed to practice football in Oklahoma and hundreds of student athletes will be taking the field throughout the day to prepare for the upcoming season.
"You'll see a lot of athletes get heat cramps, where they come out of the game holding their leg or their thigh," said Dr. Victor Palomino, a sports medicine specialist. "Those things are easily treated; the leg or the thigh is massaged out. But as you get into heat exhaustion and heat stroke, you're talking about situations that usually require medical treatment."
One of the most important factors to preventing heat exhaustion begins at home. It is imperative that student athletes and parents take the proper steps to prepare for the heat before being out in it.
"Make sure they're educated, make sure they hydrate themselves on a daily basis, they eat properly and you know that this goes on all summer, this is not something you can start three days before practice starts," said Tulsa Public Schools sports medicine coordinator Justin Laird.
It's not just about the kids and trainers though, coaches also play a vital part in recognizing possible heat exhaustion.
"You've got to watch them like a hawk, and at the first sign that you see them fading on you, you've got to get them cooled off," said Jenks head football coach Alan Trimble. "We have an ice tub right there on the field, so if he feels the need that we need to rapidly cool a guy down, we've got the dunk tank right there full of ice," said Trimble.
Other schools are using another approach like East Central High School who is holding practices two hours later than normal at 6 p.m. in hopes of some cooler temperatures.
"We feel like that gives our kids all day long to be able to do the things that are important to be able to withstand the heat by hydrating properly, eating properly and preparing for practice," said East Central High School football coach Travis Hill.
So where does the responsibility lie when it comes to preventing sickness and even death in this scorching heat?
I think everybody has some responsibility there," added Palomino. "Athletes should know their limitations and the way they're conditioned before they start. Coaches should know that, students should know that, players should know that. Information is readily accessible."