Summer Football

On August 3, 2011, Michael Carvel of The Atlanta Journal Constitution ( reported that two Georgia high school football players died on Tuesday, August 2, 2011. One of the players who passed away had spent more than a week in the hospital, as officials try to determine the effects of hot weather on both players.

Fitzgerald High School defensive lineman DJ Searcy died on the morning of August 2, 2011 following practice at a camp in northern Florida. According to the Atlanta Journal and Constitution, the 16-year-old was found unresponsive in his cabin by the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office.

Forrest Jones, Locust Grove High School offensive lineman passed away on the night of Tuesday, August 2, 2011, a family member told Channel 2 Action News. Jones passed out at a voluntary workout the week before. According to his family, physicians believe that Jones, 16, may have had a heat stroke or heat exhaustion. Jones collapsed the week before his death at a voluntary workout, which is not governed by GHSA rules and policies. The Atlanta Journal Constitution reports that most high school football teams have voluntary workouts for weightlifting, conditioning drills and 7-on-7 passing tournaments in June and July.

According to the Georgia High School Association, there had not been a heat-related death for a high school football player in Georgia in five years, until August 2, 2011.

The GHSA is the state’s governing body for high school athletics. Michael Carvel of The Atlanta Journal Constitution ( reports that the GHSA mandated that all member schools develop their own heat policies after the death of Rockdale County football player Tyler L. Davis after a voluntary workout Aug. 1, 2006. The GHSA also suggested the use of a heat-index rating or wet-bulb temperature to determine whether practices should be held or modified because of extremely high temperatures.

Monday, August 1, 2011 was the GHSA’s first official day of football practice in helmets and pads.

According to the AJC article, GHSA executive director Ralph Swearngin said “[Our heat policy] does not address voluntary football workouts over the summer, although we do encourage that schools do this. In fact, it is my understanding that Locust Grove High School takes a wet-bulb reading before every one of the voluntary workouts over the summer, including the one where the young man went down.”

Michael Carvel reports that the GHSA may develop a more stringent and more uniform heat policy in the near future and that University of Georgia researchers are in the final stages of a three-year study on heat risks associated with high school athletics.

Ralph Swearngin is reported to have said “They’ve got 30 high schools around the state with state-of-the-art equipment, and they have trainers that are taking readings every 15 minutes, starting before practice until after practice — and then they keep up with any heat-related issues that come up during practice,” “When that study is over, we’ll have hard and fast data that will maybe cause us to change our policy.”

The AJC article states that over 32,000 high school students participate in football each year in Georgia. The deaths of the two players at Fitzgerald and Locust Grove have caused a lot of sadness and confusion in Georgia’s inner circles for football.

“It’s tragic and it’s sad,” Swearngin stated to the AJC. “When we try to find a solution to a problem like this, we get a little confused or we don’t know exactly what to do. There are so many different factors when dealing with this type of situation. There are thousands of kids under the same conditions and nothing happens to them.It’s tragic and bad, but we really can’t take strong measures when it doesn’t affect everybody. So many times when a tragedy like this occurs, so many people want an immediate stop to all activities. And what keeps us from doing that is so many kids under the very same conditions have no negative effects.We’re going to find out as much information [about the two situations] as we can and go from there” Swearingen told the AJC.

This is a dangerous time of year for kids who play football. Please keep them hydrated and keep an eye on them for symptoms of heat stroke and heat exhaustion.

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