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Killing heat
August 3, 2011 10:16 AM   Subscribe

Summer's here and the time is right...for American high school football players to drop dead.

According to one survey (pdf, available here), since 1995, 46 football players have died of heat stroke, 35 of whom were high schoolers. A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report found that football players account for 5.3% of all nonfatal heat-related visits to emergency departments. Prevention of heat-related illness among athletes is uncomplicated: complete physical exam, graduated practice sessions to foster acclimatization, adjustment of exertion levels to temperature and humidity, frequent rest, appropriate clothing, and lots and lots of cold, cold water.
posted by googly (77 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
Wow, I didn't realize it was nearly this frequent — I thought maybe one kid a year died across the country, and there have to be hundreds of thousands of kids playing football.
posted by klangklangston at 10:23 AM on August 3, 2011


I thought football was a winter sport. Late fall, at least.
posted by Eideteker at 10:24 AM on August 3, 2011


Wow, I didn't realize it was nearly this frequent — I thought maybe one kid a year died across the country, and there have to be hundreds of thousands of kids playing football.

I know, right? Who'd've thought it'd be almost double that?

It's the scandal of the century!
posted by Sys Rq at 10:26 AM on August 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


It is a fall/winter sport. But there's so much pressure for victory that teams start practicing during the hottest part of the year.
posted by Uncle Ira at 10:26 AM on August 3, 2011


This is completely biased bullshit: it kills coaches too.
posted by yerfatma at 10:27 AM on August 3, 2011


I am confused as to why the article is calling high school football players, who appear to be training year-round, "out of shape".
posted by elizardbits at 10:29 AM on August 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


This is why I was less than enthusiastic about Holland Reynolds' feat.
posted by MrMoonPie at 10:30 AM on August 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


Add to these deaths the number of young football players who receive lasting injuries and you've got to start wondering about our American obsession with this sport. I live in Georgia and work in South Carolina; three of the kids listed were in those two states. The heat here has been brutal lately, I would not dream of sending anyone out to do that kind of workout. Heat indices above 110, high humidity, insanity, BRUTALITY!
posted by mareli at 10:30 AM on August 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


Apparently a coach in the Metroplex died early this week during two-a-days. I know that if the proper precautions are taken (tons of rest and water breaks) you can practice somewhat safely in summer but the extreme heat in North Texas should be calling that into question.

110 temperatures with moderately humidity makes walking from building to building brutal right now I can't imagine practicing drills in this weather. I can only hope that people aren't dumb enough to be expecting full scrimages in pads in this weather because if so kids are definitely going to get hurt.
posted by vuron at 10:30 AM on August 3, 2011


I always hated working Two-a-days, as team videographer. It was always miserable up on top of the scissor lift in the summer sun, and all I had to do was sit there with a camera.
posted by nomisxid at 10:30 AM on August 3, 2011


So, what you seem to be implying, Sys Rq, is that this is an acceptable number of preventable child deaths?
posted by darksasami at 10:31 AM on August 3, 2011


God, finally.
posted by QuarterlyProphet at 10:31 AM on August 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


I thought football was a winter sport. Late fall, at least.

Most mandatory* high school football practices start in the first two weeks of August for "two-a-day" practices, i.e. practice twice a day for 2-3 hours per practice. Games for high school start in the last week of August/first week of September in most areas with 8-10 games on the regular schedule ending in late October. Playoffs are done in November and December.

*- Even my crappy high school team that I played on had voluntary** conditioning beginning in July
** - "Voluntary" meant "if you ever want to play, you'll be here"
posted by Mister Fabulous at 10:32 AM on August 3, 2011


This is good to hear. Football: heatstroke now or brain damage later... something for everyone.

If these numbers were generated by a product, or by a disease, lawyers would be all over it. I guess there's no way to make money pursuing a solution. It's not going to get better, either, if temperatures continue to rise.
posted by kinnakeet at 10:33 AM on August 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's not just football practice; marching bands are starting their practices now, too, often in school parking lots in 110 degree heat. I expect we'll hear some stories about those kids too.

One of my FB acquaintances mentioned the other day that her son was starting football, but that she was conflicted about it because of all the bad press about brain injuries. I bet she's not the only one.
posted by emjaybee at 10:33 AM on August 3, 2011


Prevention of heat-related illness among athletes is uncomplicated:

Rub some dirt in it.
posted by three blind mice at 10:33 AM on August 3, 2011 [4 favorites]


This is completely biased bullshit: it kills coaches too.

The fact that it kills coaches as well doesn't make the reporting biased, though you could argue that it is selective in the sense that it highlights one subpopulation. There are about 680 heat-related deaths in the US every year, about half of which might be due to underlying cardiovascular disease.

I am confused as to why the article is calling high school football players, who appear to be training year-round, "out of shape".

The linked CDC report indicates that 64.7% of the football players sustaining heat illness were either overweight or obese.
posted by googly at 10:37 AM on August 3, 2011


"I know, right? Who'd've thought it'd be almost double that?

It's the scandal of the century!
"

Well, there's what, five listed in TFA that happened last week, and the linked PDF doesn't actually seem to have numbers on heat stroke at all (wrong link maybe?), so yeah, forgive me for being surprised that five kids died this last week from something entirely preventable.
posted by klangklangston at 10:38 AM on August 3, 2011 [3 favorites]


So, what you seem to be implying, Sys Rq, is that this is an acceptable number of preventable child deaths?

3,443 people drowned in the US in 2007, 1 in 5 of them was under 14*. Should we ban water recreation?

I agree that any accidental deaths are too many, but the answer isn't, or shouldn't be, "ban anything with any amount of risk". The answer should be "when performing activities with significant risk take measures to minimize the risk. If children are performing these activities, force them to take those measures".
posted by dirtdirt at 10:38 AM on August 3, 2011 [16 favorites]


So, what you seem to be implying, Sys Rq, is that this is an acceptable number of preventable child deaths?

Two HS football players per year die of heatstroke. That's fewer than, well, pretty much any other cause of death.

Acceptable? No. But it's not particularly notable, either.
posted by Sys Rq at 10:39 AM on August 3, 2011 [6 favorites]


the linked PDF doesn't actually seem to have numbers on heat stroke at all (wrong link maybe?)

Indeed. Here's the correct one.
posted by googly at 10:42 AM on August 3, 2011


Well, there's what, five listed in TFA that happened last week

Wait, didn't the article say that the causes of death were still unconfirmed, but that they suspect heatstroke?
posted by elizardbits at 10:47 AM on August 3, 2011


The linked CDC report indicates that 64.7% of the football players sustaining heat illness were either overweight or obese.
Is that higher than the overall percentage of football players who are either overweight or obese? I think football players are particularly likely to fall into that famous "their BMI says they're obese, but that's misleading because it's all muscle" category.
posted by craichead at 10:49 AM on August 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's not just football practice; marching bands are starting their practices now, too, often in school parking lots in 110 degree heat. I expect we'll hear some stories about those kids too.

The more we learn about the dangers of marching bands the more comfortable I become with the idea that I will never allow my child to play the Sousaphone. In addition to the new dangers that seem to be showing up every day, there is the simple fact that marching bands are a modern simulation of a tradition of violent war making. We aren't barbarians.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 10:51 AM on August 3, 2011 [3 favorites]


Oh, and incidentally,

lots and lots of cold, cold water

WRONG.
posted by Sys Rq at 10:53 AM on August 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


Acceptable? No. But it's not particularly notable, either.

It's notable for its easy preventability.

Tactic One: Postpone the season until the weather is cooler.
Tactic Two: Practice at night.
Tactic Three: Have medical personnel of some sort there to perform mandatory periodic evaluations of the players to try to catch problems before they are fatal.

Really, it ought to be the responsibility of the coaches or whoever is running the practices to be trained in the signs of possible incipient heatstroke, to be observant enough to detect incipient heatstroke in their players, and to force rest, cooling, and hydration (if not outright medical care) on players who might be edging into heatstroke or show other signs of distress.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:53 AM on August 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


dirtdirt, who is suggesting banning football? That's a strawman.
posted by MrBobaFett at 10:54 AM on August 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think football players are particularly likely to fall into that famous "their BMI says they're obese, but that's misleading because it's all muscle" category.
Well, sure, but football is also a sport in which sheer size is often an advantage, and even guys who are otherwise in great physical shape carry significant fat poundage on purpose. These guys might actually have been obese, not just according to some arbitrary BMI scale.
posted by MrMoonPie at 10:55 AM on August 3, 2011


It's not just football players who practice in the summer. When I was in the I.D. unit in high school, we also had a summer camp of sorts where we (and the drill team, and the color guard) practiced marching in front of the band carrying a very heavy banner of interlocking metal shields. This was all in anticipation of the parade for the summer corn festival (which I just realized is happening this weekend) where every year, we had family members march alongside us with cold water bottles.

To my knowledge, no one died. However, almost every year, at least one person in the band had to lie down or be taken to the medical tent.
posted by TrishaLynn at 11:00 AM on August 3, 2011


Re: killing heat, there is some interesting data showing that night time temperatures have risen faster than daytime temperatures -- at least in Toronto over the last 50 years. In other words, there's less contrast between day and night in summer and not as much opportunity to cool down as there used to be.
posted by binturong at 11:01 AM on August 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


Its crazy - so preventable. No helmets if its over 90 degrees, do the conditioning part of 2-a-days at 6AM. Work the hell out of the kids on skills/plays for the afternoon session, but let'em do it in t-shirts and shorts. Make the rules mandatory, fire coaches who violate them. Done
posted by JPD at 11:05 AM on August 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


who is suggesting banning football? That's a strawman.

Which thread would you like to read? The following three threads are from the last year which had to do with injuries involving football. All of the FPPs have comments stating that football should end/be banned within 10 comments.

The NFL star and the brain injuries that destroyed him
Another Gladiator Gone
Mama, Don't Let Your Boys Grow Up To Play Football
posted by Mister Fabulous at 11:10 AM on August 3, 2011


It was always miserable up on top of the scissor lift in the summer sun, and all I had to do was sit there with a camera.

Hell, it's deadly up there too.
posted by Iridic at 11:14 AM on August 3, 2011


Its crazy - so preventable. No helmets if its over 90 degrees, do the conditioning part of 2-a-days at 6AM.

Here in Texas, it was 89 degrees at 6am. The coolest it got was 84, I think, around 4am.
posted by emjaybee at 11:14 AM on August 3, 2011


The problem is that high school athletics still gives high school coaches an immense amount of latitude in terms of enforcing normative behavior. When you are talking about 15-19 year old students that are trying to play for a high school football team there is tremendous pressure to conform to the accepted norms from the coach (who can easily bench you or kick you off the team) to your fellow players.

This can result in situations where coaches skirt the rules in order to build a competitive edge against rivals. Students might feel pressured to continue working out at a high level even though they are doing themselves harm, hell they might not even know they are doing themselves harm until it's too late.

I think that's why you do need a zero-tolerance approach to how coaches run practices in extreme weather so that in the push for competitive excellence the necessity of protecting your players isn't forgotten. In some cases I think that mean suspending practices or at least suspending some kinds of activity in favor of less strenuous alternatives.
posted by vuron at 11:21 AM on August 3, 2011


I used to be a fan of professional wrestling. Like, a huge fan. I once won a bet by naming every holder of the WWF Intercontinental Championship. I would schedule Spring Break activities based largely on whether there was a pay-per-view on one of the adjacent weekends. I nearly ended up AWOL once because I couldn't stand the idea of missing SummerSlam when it was happening just two lousy hours away from me.

And then the Chris Benoit incident happened, and the more information came out, the more apparent it became that he and his wife and his child were victims of an industry that would rather have people die than enact some simple, obvious reforms -- no more eternal season, more breaks with pay, a much lower bar for injury leave... So I walked away. Haven't watched it since. I refuse to support it with my eyes or my dollars.

And every time I hear about another kid dying on the football field, or another broken-down forty-year-old who can barely remember that time he ran for three touchdowns in one game, I ask myself why the fuck I haven't already walked away from football. Forcing teenagers to do two-a-days in Georgia in August without at least an EMT present should be a felony. And anyone involved in football at any level who ever uses the word "voluntary" should be kicked in the head until they forget what that word means, except they clearly already have.
posted by Etrigan at 11:24 AM on August 3, 2011 [14 favorites]


School boards should consider shortening the season to 8 games total, and starting the season later. That would take some of the pressure off of coaches feeling they have to front-load practices during the hottest part of the summer.
posted by Eddie Mars at 11:26 AM on August 3, 2011


Hell no, man. Football season should be the same number of games as either basketball or baseball.
posted by Eideteker at 11:30 AM on August 3, 2011


Which thread would you like to read?

This one.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 11:38 AM on August 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


For context:
- 46 deaths / 15 years = ~ 3 deaths per year from football-related heatstroke
- The number of lightning fatalities in the USA per year: 37.9 (source).
- Number of total heat related deaths (all ages) per year is estimated at ~400 (source).
- Suicides among young adults (10-24 years) ~ 4600 per year (2004 stats).
posted by benzenedream at 11:48 AM on August 3, 2011 [7 favorites]


August 1st was the ten year anniversary of Korey Stringer's death. And that was in Mankato, not usually thought of as a heat index leader.
posted by Sphinx at 11:57 AM on August 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


True, but the summers here in Minnesota can be murder. This one has been. No human deaths, as far as I can tell, but it's been hard on the poultry.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 12:04 PM on August 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


darksasami: “So, what you seem to be implying, Sys Rq, is that this is an acceptable number of preventable child deaths?”

If it's three kids or so per year, the point is: it probably doesn't have anything to do with football. Hell, are kids more or less likely to die of heatstroke if they play football as opposed to, say, volleyball? Any outdoor sport? If they just sit there? These are rational questions to ask when it's this tiny a proportion.
posted by koeselitz at 12:07 PM on August 3, 2011 [3 favorites]


This is completely anecdotal, but it seems like every time I read of one of these tragedies in the local (Alabama/Georgia) news, it is almost always from an occult heart problem, specifically idiopathic hypertrophic cardiomyopathy or a dysrrhythmia, and not from heat illness. Unfortunately, the former condition cannot be picked up on a thorough physical exam or even with an ECG. It takes an echocardiogram to diagnose the condition and screening every high school athelete with an ECHO would be neither time nor cost efficient.

According to the FPP link, last year, 1.3M students participated in high school football and of the 13 direct and indirect fatalities, 2 were obviously heat-related. In my very limited experience, school systems and coaching staffs are very cognizant of the warning signs of heat injury. It is a grueling sport, but kids are going to play it and you wonder if suddenly 1.3 million students were driving around for three more hours per day instead of working out if there would be even more fatalities overall.
posted by robstercraw at 12:18 PM on August 3, 2011 [5 favorites]


I think hanging brain and other physical injuries on football is totally acceptable, but heat stroke? Unless you're going to ban all outdoor activity in the summer time, it doesn't make sense.
posted by empath at 12:19 PM on August 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


- Suicides among young adults (10-24 years) ~ 4600 per year (2004 stats).

Hmm, if participating in sports can be shown to reduce suicide risk Football actually might save more lives than it costs.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 12:21 PM on August 3, 2011


I remember passing by the stadium at several of my schools, but one in particular, where they had the most heavyset players in the dead of summer running up and down the stadium seats. I never thought that was very safe, and I remember the coach yelling at one of them for getting heat sick. The poor kid threw up and just could not move.

Perhaps in the summer they should limit football practice to air conditioned rooms with weight-training activities rather than running, running, running outside.
posted by Malice at 12:56 PM on August 3, 2011


So, what you seem to be implying, Sys Rq, is that this is an acceptable number of preventable child deaths?

Yuck, this is a terrible line of argument. I know what you're going for, I guess, but really almost all child deaths are preventable. The question is at what cost? Because if parents simply forbid their children from ever going outside, or to use bathrooms with bathtubs instead of showers, or to go up or down stairs, or to eat non-pureed food, well you've just prevented a lot of child deaths.

So do you think the number of children who die every year because they are allowed to leave the house is an acceptable number of preventable child deaths?
posted by Justinian at 1:21 PM on August 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


At least here in Georgia, the governing body is trying to take this seriously. After the last heat-related death in 2006, the GHSA created a rule (Section 2.67 of the bylaws) requiring all participating schools to have a written heat policy, including a requirement to take a hygrometer or psychrometer reading before every practice. Of course, the 'voluntary' practices the two Georgia players who died this week were taking part in are not covered under the GHSA bylaws.

GHSA Executive Director Ralph Swearngin told the AJC that they are considering adopting a more uniform and strict policy after a three year study on summer football practice concludes this year. It hopefully is going to give us for the first time ever at the high school level in any state, scientific data to show what is really going on there, and help us try to understand and explain why certain people are susceptible to heat illness and not others, said Swearngin according to GPB.

Several Metro-Atlanta school systems have suspended outdoor activities, including football practice, during the heat of the day in response to this tragedy.
posted by ob1quixote at 2:50 PM on August 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


I figured it would resolve everything if I mentioned that according to some, cheerleading is riskier than football.
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 2:56 PM on August 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


I was actually talking to our football coach about this today, and at least here (dunno if it's the city or state governing bodies), no practice is allowed when a heat warning is in effect until after sundown. So, some places - even in the South (gasp!) - are starting to take this seriously and enact some sensible and reasonable policies to protect student athletes.
posted by absalom at 3:14 PM on August 3, 2011


I'm a PhD student in music education, and for cash, I teach bassoon lessons. I avoid marching band at all costs, because let's be honest, in Texas heat, being outside right now during the day is suicidal. My kids, though, have to be out there for 4 hours each morning.

I decided to put my lesson times on top of their outdoor rehearsal, so that they'd each get 30 minutes of respite from the heat. Because bassoon really isn't the marching instrument that you'd imagine, they play a wide range of things from drums to flute.

When they come in, though, they look dead. They get a water break every 30 minutes if that. They're not allowed to keep water with them on the field; just jugs on the side to get when the director decides they've earned some water. All on black top, not grass.

I'm not trying to vilify the school I work at; they're the rule, not the exception. Everyone does this. To be competitive (and it is a competition), you've got to be out there during August to get your stuff learned and practiced before school starts. It's awful, it's painful, and potentially dangerous, but no one is going to blink first. The best thing I saw was a director that rented out a large college gym and put down cloth lines so that they could all practice inside, but not everyone has that ability.

I don't know what my point is, except that I went through it myself, and I see my own students going through it again. Even though I don't do this anymore, I can think of over 100 high schools in North Texas that were outside this morning, marching up and down the field in straight lines, practicing their stride. I remember getting heat sick, throwing up, and once, passing out. It was awful, and I wouldn't wish it on anyone else.

At this point, the best I can do is make my students more comfortable when they come into lessons (I brought water and some fresh fruit last week), and if I teach again, either rent a covered place to practice or make sure they have constant access to water.

I just can't believe that the health of students is worth this.
posted by SNWidget at 3:27 PM on August 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


It's not just football practice; marching bands are starting their practices now, too

My sister's high school band would practice IN the pool, with their instruments.
posted by nomisxid at 3:29 PM on August 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


So, what you seem to be implying, Sys Rq, is that this is an acceptable number of preventable child deaths?

I'm just going to say yes, this is an acceptable number. If life is so sacred, don't drive a car!
posted by Edgewise at 3:43 PM on August 3, 2011


- 46 deaths / 15 years = ~ 3 deaths per year from football-related heatstroke

But aren't the other stats cited taken from much larger sample groups. Like lightning for instance, how many people play high school football versus how many people are exposed to lightning strikes. I can't go a week without getting caught out in a thunderstorm myself.

I tend to agree that the number of deaths per year from football-related heatstroke are fairly small, but in the scheme of things they are entirely preventable. Entirely. This issue isn't some surprising thing that people are unaware of in the football world. Players at every level have succumb to heatstroke. Even in the NFL. Coaches should be taking ALL necessary precautions, every practice, every day. This should be strictly enforced. No coach whose players are falling out, let alone dying, should ever be allowed to coach at any level again, especially the high school level. This isn't hard. We have standardized requirements for refereeing high school ball, why not for coaching?
posted by IvoShandor at 4:17 PM on August 3, 2011


I can't go a week without getting caught out in a thunderstorm myself

On the other hand there are large sections of the nation, including parts where much of the population resides, where thunderstorms are uncommon or even vanishingly rare. While football is played virtually everywhere.
posted by Justinian at 4:32 PM on August 3, 2011


...when the director decides they've earned some water...

Often I feel this is the mindset that puts people most at risk for heat-related injuries and death. Coaches who withhold water or rest because the players aren't practicing in perfect fashion. Authority and peer pressure to push on so as not to be perceived as weak, or demonstrate that they can battle through the tough times to get the job done.

As for why there doesn't appear to be any sort of standard for safe practices, I think that has more to do with the culture of [insert activity here] and the elevation of that to such an ideal that anything less than 100% success constitutes failure on the part of the community. Akin to being a "Tiger Mom" except it's an entire administration from coaches to parents. Towns and schools often feel as though their self-worth is tied into the success of whatever program has a "tradition of winning" and usually this helps perpetuate the idea.

These are all generalizations, of course. I've come across informal, independent clubs with this mentality, and also seen it in neighborhood Little Leagues.
posted by CancerMan at 5:01 PM on August 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


(I'm so gonna get punched for this)

Is this what "giving 110%" means?
posted by Mister Moofoo at 5:07 PM on August 3, 2011


Did you ever see that Mad Men episode where a plane crashes and everybody in the office makes jokes about it, and out turns out the father of one of the people in the office was killed in the crash? And there is a moment when he walks out the office, after learning of the death, before anybody else knows it, and they're still joking?

The web can be like that. Two preventable deaths per year is two too many if you're a relative or a friend of one of the dead people. And discussing whether it is an acceptable amount of deaths is a curious sort of discussion to have when somebody might overhear the discussion who would most decidedly think the death they experienced was unacceptable.

Even two deaths a year leave a lot of survivors, and they have the web, and they may search to see what others are saying about such a thing. All roads lead to Google, and Google leads to MetaFilter.

It's worth thinking about. When I edited a web forum in Minneapolis, any time there was a death reported on it, there would be jokes, and then a relative would show up.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 6:07 PM on August 3, 2011 [4 favorites]


I don't know about comparative risk between football and other high school sports, but I do know that the cost to insure high school football is rising much, much faster than the cost to insure other sports. The high school football budget in my district is about as much as all other high school sports combined, just for coaches and equipment and stuff -- and we're a basketball area, football is mostly a nostalgia thing, we're not competitive statewide and we don't send a lot of kids to college with it. (We send a number of students to college on basketball scholarships every year, however.)

We've been hearing from some of the smaller districts that they're not sure they can continue to afford the insurance for the football program. When you look at the cost of that program, plus the insurance cost, and it costs more than the rest of your sports program combined, it starts look good to drop the program, especially if you're so small it's hard to field a full-sized team. And once some small schools start dropping it and the world doesn't end, I think some other schools will look hard at that budget item. If dropping football can save the rest of athletics AND the arts ... AND it costs a buttload to insure ... AND more and more parents (mostly mothers) don't want their sons playing because of head injuries ...

Anyway, maybe somebody has an actuarial background or knows something about insuring high school sports and can share the risk differential, but it does definitely cost a LOT more to insure, and the cost is rising faster than for other sports, so I suspect it is more dangerous and I suspect the perception of it as dangerous is also increasing, potentially adding liability.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:21 PM on August 3, 2011


Except that is perilously close to "but won't somebody think of the children?". We have to make rational decisions about costs and benefits. Not doing so leads to all kinds of awfulness.

Now, things like deciding when players "earn" water are terrible and should be stamped out. But the idea that we shouldn't even engage in discussions about what is and is not acceptable is pernicious.
posted by Justinian at 6:26 PM on August 3, 2011


whoops, I forgot to quote; I was referring to Bunny's comment not Eyebrows McGee's.
posted by Justinian at 6:26 PM on August 3, 2011


We have to make rational decisions about costs and benefits. Not doing so leads to all kinds of awfulness.

I'm curious how that comes to play in a thread about preventable deaths of children. What is the cost benefit that comes from letting them die? What do we gain in this cold, impersonal analysis of pure datum?

This is the subject of the thread, after all.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 6:30 PM on August 3, 2011


But the idea that we shouldn't even engage in discussions about what is and is not acceptable is pernicious.

And further, that was not my point. The discussion can happen. The jokes or the easy dismissals might benefit from careful consideration.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 6:31 PM on August 3, 2011


What is the cost benefit that comes from letting them die?

Well, we are talking football players here...
posted by Crabby Appleton at 6:44 PM on August 3, 2011


I'm curious how that comes to play in a thread about preventable deaths of children.
Well, look: I hate football passionately, so I wouldn't mourn if it was abolished permanently. (I'm so gonna get fired if anyone figures out who I am, btw. Sorry! I know that makes me an un-American commie, but I am still a nice person!) But physical activity is important, and a whole hell of a lot more Americans die from having a sedentary lifestyle than die from heat stroke. So if allowing young guys to play football makes them more likely to develop healthy exercise habits (and I admit that's a big if), then the small number of heat stroke deaths might be offset by the larger number of heart disease deaths that would be prevented down the line.

I mean, some people won't let their kids ride a bike, because it's dangerous. But I'd argue that in the long run, kids are safer if they learn to think of exercise as a fun and normal part of life. So you teach your kids to ride their bikes as safely as possible, and then you deal with the fact that risk is an inevitable part of life and that by over-protecting your children, you might be making them less safe in the long run.
posted by craichead at 6:46 PM on August 3, 2011


But physical activity is important, and a whole hell of a lot more Americans die from having a sedentary lifestyle than die from heat stroke.

I agree it is important. But there are circumstances in which physical activity is quite dangerous. We can be judicious about when we demand children exercise, and we can be smart about how they exercise when they do.

Some people will simply die from exercise, and I understand that. Far more will die from not exercising, so we're better off encouraging exercise than not. But in the sweltering heat, in full uniform, without adequate breaks or hydration?

This is what can be addressed.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 6:50 PM on August 3, 2011


For context:
- 46 deaths / 15 years = ~ 3 deaths per year from football-related heatstroke
- The number of lightning fatalities in the USA per year: 37.9 (source).
- Number of total heat related deaths (all ages) per year is estimated at ~400 (source).
- Suicides among young adults (10-24 years) ~ 4600 per year (2004 stats).
That isn't contextual at all, because you're comparing deaths in a very small population to deaths in a very large population.

Secondly some of the comments "defending" this are very weird. It comes out that kids die during highschool football practice and the argument is "well, it's not that many, you wouldn't ban ALL outdoor activities, would you!?"

First of all, there's a huge difference. Most football games are played in the fall, so conditioning for high heat shouldn't even be an issue. You can still play football without needing to over-exert yourself in the summer.

Here's another comment that totally ignores the point:
So if allowing young guys to play football makes them more likely to develop healthy exercise habits (and I admit that's a big if), then the small number of heat stroke deaths might be offset by the larger number of heart disease deaths that would be prevented down the line.
There are a bunch of comments like this which basically treat this as an all or nothing phenomenon: Either have heat deaths or get rid of HS football entirely!

But how about, you know don't overwork the students when it's 100 ° outside!? Or 90?, because that's obviously a problem that can be solved without getting rid of the idiotic "no pain no gain, blargh!!!" attitude that a lot of coaches seem to want to have.
posted by delmoi at 6:51 PM on August 3, 2011


Oh and the other annoying comments in this thread were the ones that implied that there was no difference between hard-core cardio training done in high temperatures, and something like grilling, or whatever. The biggest difference is that if your grilling or just-for fun vollyball game gets to tiring you can just a take a break, whereas with football practice someone is going to yell at you, bla bla bla. So there's a huge difference.
posted by delmoi at 6:54 PM on August 3, 2011


But in the sweltering heat, in full uniform, without adequate breaks or hydration?

This is what can be addressed.


And that's what (some of) us are talking about; which costs are worth the benefits. Allowing breaks and hydration are virtually no cost and quite a lot of benefit, so clearly that's something everyone should be doing. Postponing practices until nightfall or something, on the other hand, does have very real costs and may well not be worth it. But...

And discussing whether it is an acceptable amount of deaths is a curious sort of discussion to have when somebody might overhear the discussion who would most decidedly think the death they experienced was unacceptable.

is to me a questioning of whether this discussion is appropriate to have in the first place, not a questioning of which costs are worth the benefit. It quite clearly seems to be saying one should not have a discussion about how acceptable some risks are when relatives of someone who died might read it.
posted by Justinian at 7:48 PM on August 3, 2011


Seriously, these false dichotomies make any real discussion of the issue impossible. I no longer follow the NFL or the NCAA, but I still support high school athletics a million percent. Same with Band Camp, and although competition-level cheer-leading is dangerous as fuck, a lot of what goes on with most cheerleaders is not nearly so ambitious or dangerous, and summer practice at least takes place in (usually) air conditioned gyms.

Seriously: there is no reason districts - or even state legislatures, if they had the balls to get involved in something is life-and-death important as High School Athletics - shouldn't enact common sense policies designed to prevent serious health risk to 14-18 year olds. None. Zero. The harm is zero and the benefits - if you really believe all that stupid children are our future bullshit - are infinite.

Besides, considering the still relatively common machisimo still all over the place in football particularly, a district- or state- wide policy in regards to such a thing would cut equally across the board, cutting off not only "the cult of weakness or silence" pushing people past their limits, but also negating any sense of advantage or disadvantage inherent in being idle while the other people practice.

Oh, and replace the bodies of the fallen, I suppose. Once more into the breech, dear friends, once more!
posted by absalom at 7:51 PM on August 3, 2011


In my freshman and sophomore years of high school I was in the marching band in Kansas (Derby Panthers reprazent) and our practice was (I think) concurrent with the football team's. Two practices a day, starting in mid-August, 7am-9am and 6pm to 8pm. In 90-100+ degree heat. It was hard enough to hold an instrument *up* and march around for those two hours in shorts and tank tops - I can't even imagine running around with any kind of protective gear on.
posted by bendy at 10:32 PM on August 3, 2011


Bad jokes aside, is there an "If you need a break you're a wimp" attitude on the part of coaches (and teammates) which could be a factor, or do the insurance and/or regulations keep that sort of thing in check? Because that would seem to me to be a concern, what with it being football, and not, say, archery or cross-country or something that's not so steeped in the culture of manliness.
posted by Mister Moofoo at 10:59 PM on August 3, 2011


Bad jokes aside, is there an "If you need a break you're a wimp" attitude on the part of coaches (and teammates) which could be a factor, or do the insurance and/or regulations keep that sort of thing in check?

Yes, there is definitely that attitude. Remember, we're dealing with teenagers here, a body of persons that has been known to slack off on occasion. For coaches at that level, motivating kids to keep trying is a huge part of their jobs. That's part of how they sell football to increasingly skeptical and concerned parents -- "It'll teach him how to focus, how to reach down deep inside and give 110 percent." So they see some feckless kid who really just wants to bang a cheerleader, he doesn't really want to give 110 percent, and clearly he's just slacking off in practice, because by God, when I was his age, I did two-a-days in 120 degree heat and then went back to the farm and brought the goddamn crops in...

Insurance and regulations are good, but they require people who are A) a little less steeped in the macho tradition of football; B) can stand up to a football coach, who is often the most powerful person at a school, being the only moneymaker and part of that long tradition; and C) have nothing else to do during the summer. Contrary to popular belief, teachers and administrators may not live up to this last one.
posted by Etrigan at 5:22 AM on August 4, 2011


Just a story from the "underlying conditions" part of this:

“First-round pick Danny Watkins relied on his experience as a firefighter when he went to help his new teammate Mike Patterson, who experience a seizure during Wednesday morning's practice."

The early reports were that the seizure was a result of dehydration or exhaustion but:

Sal Paolantonio of ESPN reports that Patterson has a “brain AVM,” a congenital tangle of blood vessels in his skull. Patterson will need surgery or radiation to repair the situation. Per Paolantonio, the Eagles are consulting with specialists before deciding on a course of treatment.

Could have been a lot worse if there weren't trained people on hand, but it didn't make a difference if he was playing football or not. The most important thing at all levels is to make sure there are trained medical staff available when needed.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 7:10 AM on August 4, 2011


"Bad jokes aside, is there an "If you need a break you're a wimp" attitude on the part of coaches (and teammates) which could be a factor, or do the insurance and/or regulations keep that sort of thing in check?"

This is one of my school district liability nightmares. We do have (as others have suggested) various common-sense rules to protect students in athletic practices. The state has various laws. The state high school athletic governing authority has pretty stringent student safety rules and schools can be disqualified for an entire season for disobeying them.

But. It only takes one rogue coach to squirm out from under all those regulations, and babysitting every coach at every practice seems ... well, rotten to the coaches who play by the rules, and expensive to implement and ideally unnecessary -- the coaches are adults! But you have wealthy schools with indoor, air-conditioned field houses where they can do summer two-a-days and so poorer or smaller schools feel like they have to be on that schedule, but they have to do it outdoors ... parents look the other way because they want their kid's team to be competitive ... alumni pressure for wins and withhold dollars without them and don't realize the move to year-round single-sport conditioning even at the junior high level has made these sports much more intense and injury prone ... students and their parents (and sometimes their coaches and principals) cheat residency rules to get a star player at the "right" school ...

Bottom line, there's big a lot of institutional pressure to win at various sports (not just football) and it is too easy to skirt the rules and there is too little punishment when it happens. Coaches are told their mandate is to educate children through sports, but in many instances their mandate really is is to win (and in some cases, get their kids scholarships to the right colleges). And unfortunately it just takes one person (typically a coach) violating those rules to create a catastrophe and a tragedy. And coaches don't deal with the insurance cost for the program (neither do principals, typically), so it's not much of a brake on the behavior at the level where it occurs.

I've also seen some coaches and programs play chicken with various districts over misbehavior, funding, discipline, etc., because they're betting the school board or administration won't have the cojones to curtail an important legacy program like football. Too often they're right.

(All that said, most of the coaches I know are great people who take great care of their kids. But, again, it only takes one, and that's the one I have nightmares about, and I think almost every school has ONE coach who's a dick.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:01 AM on August 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


I...don't think this one will catch on in reusable form.

Fox News: "For the past month, college football players across the sun-baked south have been wearing special headbands and swallowing a small pill-like sensor – both contain mini thermometers. They read the body’s temperature which is transmitted to a hand-held monitoring device. If the player's body temperature peaks above 102.5 degrees, an alert goes off warning trainers and coaches.

CorTemp, which makes the pill-sensor, says about 10 NFL teams, more than a dozen colleges and some high schools are using it or have used it in the past. Each little pill costs about $40 and although they can be reused, they typically are used only one-time because of sanitary concerns."

posted by furiousxgeorge at 6:34 PM on August 6, 2011


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