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Cats Tackle Heat Issue

By Mark Janssen
 
 
In the Flint Hills, it's hot.
 
Nasty, sticky hot.
 
It was 108-degrees hot last week, and at least on the Bill Snyder Family Stadium Field Turf, it's flirting with that degree of semi-boiling again this week.
 
"It is what it is," said Kansas State ninth-year football trainer Matt Thomason of the heat. "It's something that we educate the guys on well before they get in the heat. Once you have that cottonmouth, it's too late."
 
And, once you feel that sharp pain of a heat cramp, as Thomason says, "Nothing helps the education on the importance of hydration more quickly than to suffer a severe cramp. It's an intense pain where muscles contract without voluntary effort. A full body cramp is something any athlete will tell you they don't care to go through again."
 
When Thomason says hydration, he's talking about up to two gallons of water and/or Gatorade a day. That, and staying away from the caffeine drinks. During the month of August, Thomason says, "Everywhere our athletes are, fluids are nearby."
 
Water or flavored Gatorade - Grape, Fruit Punch, Lemon-Lime or Orange - is on the field during practice, at training table, in their preseason dorm, and, "We give each of our athletes a 32-ounce bottle that we ask them to keep filled and with them at all times."
 
Thomason said there are a variety of waters on the market proclaiming to be the best, but as he says, "It boils down to water being water. The important thing is to get it into your body."
 
Cramps during workouts are one of the first signs of the lack of proper hydration, but Thomason and his training staff also monitor the weight of the Wildcat players after each and every practice.
 
"We have a weigh-in and a weigh-out after every practice," said Thomason, who said it's the norm for a player to lose eight to 12 pounds during a practice. "What we really look for is not what one of our guys loses in practice, but what he weighs when he comes back to the next practice. That tells us that we need to get some additional food back in his system, or to increase the fluids."
 
Increasing the fluids can mean an education into drinking the liquids.
 
"Even when they feel bloated, they need to know that it's important to keep drinking," said Thomason. "Normally when you're full of liquids, you want to stop, but we want them to keep on drinking."
 
Instead of gulping, however, Thomason preaches a steady pace of hydration: "Eight ounces every 15 minutes will keep a player from going into a catch-up mode."
 
Along with the hydration, each Wildcat player has access to cold towels during practice, and cold tubs are mandatory after every practice for seven to 10 minutes.
 
This is done by up to two players in one of 20 100- to 150-gallon tanks, four or five players in a 300-gallon tank, or up to a dozen in K-State's "cold plunge whirlpool."
 
Thomason also plays the role of weather man each day checking on the air temperature, humidity, heat index and the wind speed.
 
If too severe, Thomason says, "We have been known to alter practice times on occasion, but the norm in extreme conditions is to add to the number of breaks, or lengthen the breaks during practice."
 
The National Center for Catastrophic Injury Research at the University of North Carolina reports that of the 20 fatalities in all football levels in 2008, six were caused by heatstroke, which was the highest number of heat-related football deaths since 1972. Research shows that 39 football players have died from heat-related issues since 1995.
 
Whether to his own Wildcat athletes, or to those teenage high school players around Kansas and the nation, Thomason offers this list of symptoms of dehydration:
 
Urine color that is not comparative to the color of lemonade, headaches, dizziness, weakness, irritability, muscle cramps, increase in resting heart rate, decrease in urination frequency, chills and constant thirst.
 
He adds that with even the slightest degree of dehydration, there's a negative influence in on-field performance. That starts with a one percent body weight of fluid loss elevating the core body temperature, to five percent resulting in cardiovascular strain and to 10 percent or more which can result in heat stroke, unconsciousness and possibly death.