TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Even if they’ve grown in the Florida heat, student-athletes are still vulnerable as they hit the practice field this time of year before the start of the Fall sports season.
The Director of Sports Medicine at Berkeley Prep, Eddie Bunton, points out that coaches must follow guidelines from the Florida High School Athletic Association.
“It’s as much as a limited number of hours on the practice field to equipment they’re allowed to wear,” he said.
Bunton said staying hydrated before and during practice is critical and players should avoid having caffeinated or energy drinks.
“We trust the kids if they need to step out to get a drink of water, then they absolutely are allowed to do that,” Bunton said.
After a high school football player from the Fort Myers area died after collapsing from heatstroke on the practice field, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the “Zach Martin Act” in 2020 in hopes of preventing heat illness for student athletes.
Teams are required to monitor conditions during practice with a wet bulb thermometer.
“92.1 on web bulb is where we have to cease practice,” Bunton said. “So that would be no outdoor practices at all, which would require us to either move indoors or completely postpone or suspend practice for the day.”
Emergency Medicine Dr. Meghan Martin from Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital said if students are dealing with fatigue, muscle cramps, headaches or dizziness, it is time to pull them from practice.
“If they’re getting to the point where skin is clammy, dry, really red, they’re starting to get confused, having nausea or vomiting or any passing out — definitely done for the day and probably time to seek medical help,” she said.
Bunton encourages all young athletes to alert coaches or trainers if they are not feeling well.
“If you’re in a situation where your health is at risk, be vocal,” Bunton said.
Another change after the passage of the Zach Martin Act is that Florida schools must have a cold water immersion tank during hot practices and games.