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Heat acclimation a priority as teams hit practice fields

High school football is officially back this week with the start of the mandatory five-day acclimation period and preseason practices for 2018.

Teams have hit practice fields all over the state of Georgia with season opening scrimmages just around the corner.

For the four Bartow County teams, scrimmages kick off on Friday, August 10 with Adairsville scrimmaging at Woodland, Cartersville scrimmaging at Dalton, and Cass hosting a scrimmage with Pepperell.

Other high school fall sports have started their official workouts as well. Softball, volleyball, boys and girls cross country teams and cheerleading can conduct their earliest practices Monday.

Softball teams can play games as early Aug. 3. Volleyball and cross country teams can compete Aug. 6.

The high school football regular season can kick off as early as Aug. 17.

In recent years, the Georgia High School Association has implemented procedures created by the Inter-Association Tsk Force for Preseason Secondary School Athletics Participants.

More details may be viewed in the paper, “Preseason Heat-Acclimatization Guidelines for Secondary School Athletes.”

The current rules are designed with the intent of reducing heat-related injuries associated with high school football and injuries from excessive contract drills.

The acclimation time rules started for GHSA-member schools back in 2012 and were put in place following a span of years (1994-2009, per University of Georgia study) in which the state suffered more heat-related deaths among high school and college football players than any other state. Currently, at least 17 states have similar guidelines and many more are considering them.

Teams will not be allowed to begin padded practices until after their fifth practice. Players wear helmets and moutpieces in the first five days of two hour practices prior to August 1. Walk-through practices are permissable as long as there is at least a two-hour break between the two activities.

Two-a-day practices are allowed starting August 1 in full pads with no single session lasting longer than three hours. If two practices are held, then the total time should not exceed five hours and there must be a three-hour rest time between the two practices.

Two-a-day practices cannot be consecutive. All double-session days must be followed by a single-session day or a day off and walk-through sessions are not allowed on days when two practices are conducted.

With players in pads, the weather can impact the practice schedule as well.

Schools are equipped with wet bulb globe temperature (WBGT) devices that take into account air temperature, relative humidity, wind speeds, cloud cover and sun angle to calculate heat stress.

Schools are not allowed to practice if the WBGT reading is higher than 92 (comparable to a heat index of above 100).

Usually, mornings don’t get too hot, but once school starts and football practice moves to the afternoon, the WBGT readings can soar and restrict practices.

Georgia high school football practices are also required to limit full contact.

For purposes of the restrictions, GHSA defines four levels of contact with six terms.

AIR - Players run a drill unopposed without contact; BAGS - Players run a drill against a bag or another soft-contact surface; CONTROL -Players run a drill at assigned speed until the moment of contact and one player is pre-determined the “winner” by the coach. Contact remains above the waist and players stay on their feet; THUD - Players run a drill at competitive speed through the moment of contact with no pre-determined “winner.” Contact remains above the waist, players stay on their feet and a quick whistle ends the drill; LIVE ACTION - Players run a drill in game-like conditions and is the only time that players are taken to the ground; FULL CONTACT - Contact which meets the definition of Live Action or Thud.

Pre-Season & Spring Practice and Summer Contact Camps:

1) Full contact shall be allowed in no more than 2 consecutive practice days per week;

2) Full contact during practice shall be limited to not more than 45 minutes per day;

3) Full contact during practice shall be limited to not more than 135 minutes per week; and

4) During any twice-daily practice, only one session per day shall include full contact.

5) In Summer Contact Camps, the only form of Full Contact allowed is Thud.

6) Schools will be limited to attending no more than three (3) Team Contact Camps per summer (no more than eight (8) days total).

Regular and Post Season Practice:

1) Full contact during practice shall be allowed in no more than three practice days per week;

2) Full contact during practice shall not be allowed on more than two consecutive days;

3) Full contact during practice shall be limited to not more than 30 minutes per day;

4) Full contact during practice shall be limited to not more than 90 minutes per week.

In addition, schools are required to produce a written practice plan prepared in advance by the head coach prior to every practice. As part of the GHSA by-law, the school must maintain these plans for a period of at least one year.

Source: Georgia High School Association Constitution and By-Laws

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