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High school players learn lesson in heat safety

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SANDY SPRINGS, Ga. -

The Riverwood Raiders in Sandy Springs got a crash course in heat safety last year when one of their players ended up in the emergency room.

The players at Riverwood International Charter School take the heat pretty seriously because they've seen what it can do to their teammate, Reggie Prince.

Reggie was a sophomore and new to the team.

"He didn't know he was going to be playing in that game, so earlier in the day he said he had French fries for lunch, and chips and juice and soda, so he really didn't know beforehand that,  you don't need to be doing that, especially, it's August, it's going to be really hot out here," said Whitley Witherspoon, a certified athletic trainer at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta.

At first, Reggie felt fine, picking up the other team's fumble and running it back for a touchdown. Then, the cramps set in all over his body.

"At the same time both thighs, neck, stomach -- everything," said Prince.

Witherspoon recognized that Reggie was dangerously overheated and called an ambulance. He ended up at the ER at hooked to an IV bag of fluids.

"I wasn't hydrated enough, didn't have enough electrolytes and things like that," Prince said.

At every practice, Whitley is constantly tracking conditions with a wet bulb thermometer.

When it's very hot, and the humidity is high, the players sweat more, but it doesn't evaporate.

"Especially if there is not wind, it just kind of sits on you and it's kind of like an extra coat of insulation of heat, so it's trapping that heat in your body," Witherspoon said.

To help players acclimate to the heat, the Georgia High School Association mandates that teams practice without pads. Witherspoon check the conditions every 15 minutes, advising coaches when to call breaks, but she also pushes the players to keep themselves ready for the heat.
    
"Snacks before practice, encouraging them to actually eat before they come out here," Witherspoon said.

She recommends lots of water and sports drinks.

"I encourage them to walk around school with a gallon of water all the time, fill it up a couple of times just to make sure they're really, really getting those fluids in," Witherspoon said.

Prince says he's learned his lesson.

"Make sure I drink a lot of water, stay focused, get things done," Prince said.

The Georgia High School Association has heat safety guidelines schools have to follow.

In extreme conditions, teams have to call a certain number of cool down breaks, limit practice times and make sure players have unlimited access to hydration. They also have to make sure players have a shaded area to rest in.

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