It is a terrible irony that Georgia saw two of its high school football players die late last summer when it’s the Georgia High School Association that was providing us with the best information we’ve ever had about the risks of heat illness and death.
The deaths occurred in the third year of a thorough three-year study in Georgia that is reinforcing common sense. The study is confirming who is most at risk and when they’re most at risk.
Who is most at risk? Linemen more than other players; underclassmen more than older players; those who have had the flu or similar sickness more than others.
When are they most at risk? During the season’s first week more than the second. During the second practice of a double session day more than the first. During the second half of the second practice more than the first half, and, early in the morning when humidity is often highest.
It all makes perfect sense: the chubby 9th or 10th grader during the second half of the second practice during the first week of the season. And because it’s statistically predictable, heat illness is almost entirely preventable.
There is some danger here in over-generalizing and over-simplifying, but awareness of these tendencies will help coaches to schedule and administrators to legislate around high-risk scenarios. We expect both will be happening in Michigan.