Thinking about hot July afternoons may seem worlds away when much of the United States is blanketed by snow and freezing temperatures.
For youth football organizations, though, the offseason is when idea becomes action and plans for the fall take shape.
USA Football’s National Practice Guidelines for Youth Tackle Football offer youth leagues a clear, medically endorsed process to implement a preseason heat acclimatization program. The guidelines were designed with input from USA Football’s Medical Advisory Committee and Football Advisory Committeeand are endorsed by the American College of Sports Medicine, the National Athletic Trainers’ Association and the American Medical Society of Sports Medicine. They provide youth football organizations with recommendations to establish consistent methods designed to limit the chance for injury during structured practice sessions.
“Heat-related deaths are 100-percent preventable,” said Dr. Douglas Casa of the Korey Stringer Institute and a member of the USA Football Medical Advisory Committee. “And it is the simplest things that make it safer for players in the heat. All it takes is some planning.”
- No two-a-days. At no time throughout the preseason or regular season should teams practice more than once per day. Teams should be allowed to practice a maximum of four times per week during the preseason.
- First two practices. During practice days 1 and 2 of the heat-acclimatization period, no more than 90 minutes of practice are allowed, a helmet should be the only protective equipment permitted and no form of player-to-player contact should occur.
- Next two practices. During practice days 3 and 4, two hours of total practice time is allowed per session. Only helmets and shoulder pads should be worn, and no full-contact drills should be allowed. USA Football defines full-contact as drills being run at “Thud” and “Live” tempo. Coaches are encouraged to limit player-to-player contact up to “Control” using USA Football’s Levels of Contact.
- Practices 5 and 6. On practice days 5 and 6, two hours of practice time is allowed, both of which would occur no earlier than the second week of a youth organization’s preseason schedule. Teams have the option to wear full pads, and full-contact drills can begin.
- Adjust to weather. On days when environmental conditions – heat indexor wet bulb globe temperature – are extreme, modifications should be made to the work-to-rest ratio to allow for cool-down periods and rehydration or rescheduled to cooler parts of the day, i.e., before 10 a.m. or after 6 p.m.
Another important reason to promote acclimatization is because children can begin preparing for heat throughout the early summer months before football practices begin. Through emails, newsletters and communication from coaches, leagues can prompt parents to let their children play outside in order to acclimate to the stress from heat that they may encounter during practices.
“There is no question that you can get a good jump on heat training in June and July to make the transition to August practices easier,” Casa said. “This way you can slowly increase the intensity and activity outside and be used to the environment by the time practices come around.”
Source: USA Football