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Soaring temperatures present real threat to athletes

Heat-related illness is at the front of high school football coaches' minds this time every year, with intensity toward the season climbing right along with August temperatures. 

But attention on the issue was accelerated July 21 when Oklahoma State basketball player Tyrek Coger collapsed after running bleachers at Boone Pickens Stadium and later died at a Stillwater hospital. 

Though the tragedy was not believed to be directly related to heat  the Oklahoma State Medical Examiner's Office released a report saying Coger died from an enlarged heart and that the manner of death was natural  it demanded headlines and reinforced safety when conducting outdoor summer workouts.   

"It's always been important," Cache football coach John Herbert said. "I think with (Coger) it really brings it to the forefront right now." 

Herbert's awareness is especially acute this season as Cache is without full-time medical trainer Caitlin Foster, who sought an opportunity outside the district. Doctors Jeremy Woodson and Trey Chambers, both of Lawton, as well as Lawton High trainer David Stanley have all offered their help. 

"It's something that's heavy on my mind. (Without a trainer) you do what you can to monitor things as a coach," Herbert said. "We've got great team managers that have stepped up for us. The heat is always on our minds. We're taking guys out (of drills) if they're fatigued." 

Coaches choose various methods to monitor players' health in the heat, some going as far as weighing players between morning and evening workouts to monitor sweat loss and ensure proper rehydration takes place. 

Many of the teams conducting two-a-days since Monday, the state's first official day of practice, have caught a break with plenty of cloud cover and a few showers, which have kept highs in the low-90s or even upper-80s. Cache enjoyed unseasonably cool temperatures during a night practice Tuesday, Herbert said. 

The atmosphere can determine the quality of work teams put in during August. Coaches typically become weathermen this time of year, increasing the intensity of workouts as thermometer levels drop and vice versa. 

The Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association requires coaches to review guides about acclimatizing players to the heat, and to receive training on concussions, heat-related illness and sudden cardiac arrest. 

For the first four days of preseason training, the OSSAA only allows teams to use footballs, shoes and helmets during practices. 

The Lawton Constitution

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