Trainers set rules as high school practices heat up

Heat stroke is the biggest cause of preventable deaths in high school sports.

New rules and recommendations for all sports are intended to save lives on days when the heat and humidity are in the danger zones.

Three days before game night, the Decatur Central Hawks practiced at half speed, in shorts, and without much of their heavy equipment.

"The days of pounding our chests and tough it out, those days are gone," said head coach Justin Dixson.

He shortened practice by 20 minutes and increased water breaks to one every 15 minutes.

"Do we want to prepare our guys for Friday night, yes, but we are going to take care of them first," Dixson explained.

This season perhaps more so than others. It's been a mild summer and teenagers aren't acclimated to playing in the brutal heat and humidity.

"I think the first thing we have to say is everybody is at risk at this point," said Brian Bulmer, the school's athletic trainer. "At this point, our kids aren't ready for this type of weather, but they've been conditioning, but not in 90 degree heat."

High school athletic programs are also taking heat from Indiana lawmakers. They've mandated more training for coaches. The Indiana High School Athletic Association put strict limits on preseason practices and issued recommendations for the playing season.

The sanctioning organization expects players to be adequately hydrated before practice. It found three-fourths of them are dehydrated before practice starts.

Coaches should lower the intensity and increase breaks during hot weather as well as recognize the early signs of players in distress and have emergency action plans rehearsed and ready.

Decatur Central's head athletic trainer sent emails to the coaches of all sports reminding them to adjust their practices.

"What you say goes?" Eyewitness News asked Bulmer.

The trainer didn't hesitate, answering, "Absolutely, absolutely."

The new rules and expectations are creating a new mindset for coaches as well as players.

"Coaches know safety is absolutely our first concern when it comes to student athletes. They've come on board since the get go," said Decatur Central Athletic Director Kelly McWilliams.

The concerns continue to game nights. Some games have started later, with extended halftimes with the intention of keeping players cooler and safer.