HS Coaches Clinic To Include Heat, Emergency Preparedness Presentation
Ron Courson helped NATA develop guidelines for heat-acclimatization and emergency planning.

March 27, 2012

ATHENS, Ga. --- This week's University of Georgia Spring Football Coaches Clinic will feature a presentation covering two vital issues which recently were instituted by the Georgia High School Association – heat-acclimatization and emergency planning.

High school football coaches from throughout the state will be in Athens on Thursday and Friday for the clinic. On Friday afternoon, all attendees will take part in the presentation on heat and emergency issues led by Ron Courson, UGA Athletics' Assistant AD for Sports Medicine; Michael S. Ferrara, PhD, ATC, associate head of UGA's department of Kinesiology; Andrew Grundstein, UGA associate professor of Geography and climatologist; and Ralph Swearngin, executive director of the Georgia High School Association (GHSA).

"Heat-acclimatization and emergency planning are two vital issues that can help ensure the safety and well-being of athletes at every level," Courson said. "We're excited about the opportunity to inform and educate a number of high school coaches in this setting."

Last week, Georgia became the latest state to adopt recommendations from the National Athletic Trainers' Association regarding heat acclimatization. The guidelines require approximately 10-14 days to acclimatize to heat stress with gradual acclimatization to these conditions to minimize the risk of exertional heat illness (EHI).

Three years ago, the GHSA decided to develop guidelines to protect the health and safety of its athletes and partnered with the Georgia Athletic Trainers' Association, the National Federation of State High School Associations Foundation and the National Athletic Trainers' Association Research & Educational Foundation to fund a University of Georgia study that looked at the rate of EHI.

"Heat stroke is a preventable death with proper acclimatization of the athlete, recognition of the condition and immediate and rapid cooling when a heat stroke is suspected," said Ferrara, who co-directed the study. "Our previous research shows heat illness rates are highest in the Southeast."

"We wanted to develop a policy that would be practical and allow student athletes exposure to the environmental conditions but be as safe as possible," said Swearngin. "We are confident that we are taking the right steps and passing the right measures to provide the best care for our young athletes."

The National Athletic Trainers' Association (NATA) also recently provided an overview of guidelines for emergency planning in athletics. The guidelines are designed to provide physicians, athletic trainers, coaches, athletic staff, school administrators, institutional and organizational safety personnel and parents with recommendations for managing medical emergencies at all levels of athletics. A template for an emergency action plan (EAP) has been developed by NATA and will be outlined during Friday's session.

"Although most sports injuries are relatively minor, life-threatening injuries are unpredictable and can occur without warning," said Courson, who helped develop the EAP guidelines. "Due to a relatively low incidence of catastrophic injuries, those tasked with overseeing organized athletics often develop a false sense of security."

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