Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Heat Related Illness

Arkadelphia Public Schools extends our condolences to our colleagues in the Gurdon School District and to the Williams family. We realize that each life is important no matter what location an incident such as this occurs, but we also realize that it seems to resonate more with our community due to the close distance between Gurdon and Arkadelphia.

Because of this, we wanted to let our patrons know of some of the precautionary measures that our school district implemented before pre-season practices began. The measures serve to educate our parents and students about heat illness and to prevent and monitor those that may occur.

Arkadelphia is pleased to have a partnership with the Athletic Training staff at Henderson State University under the direction of  John Miller, ATC. A Certified Athletic Trainer from the HSU Athletic Training Staff along with student interns have been present at all of our high school practices to monitor heat-related needs.

Not only are water breaks built into the practice schedule, but members of the athletic training staff are active in providing water to players during practice with water bottles. The athletic training staff also has a cool water immersion tub in the Badger Fieldhouse adjacent to the practice field should a player need immediate assistance. For our eighth grade team practicing at Goza Middle School, practice schedules and locations have been altered and extra measures have been taken by the coaching staff to monitor the health of our players. A cool water immersion tub is available and the Certified Athletic Trainer is on call.

The coaching staff and athletic training staff have an Emergency Action Plan in place in each of the coaches’ manuals with instructions on how to handle emergency situations. Coaches are trained to recognize symptoms of heat illness, and pull players out of practice when those are noticed. Players do not return to practice until the coach or athletic trainer determines that those symptoms have subsided. Coaches and training staff have a hydration protocol in place should a situation arise.

Other measures taken by the district, particularly regarding our teams who practice outdoors include: 

- Heat illness seminar attended by our coaching staff
- Pre-season heat illness educational seminar for parents of football players led by head coach J.R. Eldridge
- Adjusting practice times to avoid the middle of the day and to give players more time to recuperate between practices
- Adjusting the length of practice to prevent players from being exposed to the heat for several hours at a time.
- Adjusting practice location to the Crews Indoor Pavilion at Ouachita Baptist University to avoid sun during week one of pre-season practice.
- Gatorade provided to players after each practice by supporters of the Badger football program and parents.

We know we are not alone in taking these precautionary measures. We also know that precautionary measures do not eliminate these situations, but put a plan in place so situations can be dealt with as they arise.

Chris Babb, Athletic Director
Arkadelphia Public Schools