With the NFL season under way, you may be thinking about all things football. Who is going to make the playoffs? Will your team be among them? And for goodness sake, did Peyton make the right decision by going to DENVER???
However, what you might not be thinking about are injuries. Well, other than the ones that have sidelined your favorite player. No, what I’m talking about here are the injuries and health risks football players face on a daily basis . . . injuries that may even lead to death.
So, here’s the question: when it comes to football and the many injuries sustained from playing the game, when is it too much? Players between 200 -300 pounds slam into each other at top speeds. Multiple players target single individuals in an effort to squash the competition, sometimes quite literally. There have been countless football-related injuries reported, and it seems that the frequency is rapidly increasing all across America. The injuries vary, of course . . . anything from a broken leg or arm, to a cracked rib, to twisted knees and ankles.
Perhaps most commonly, though, are the concussions. In this second part of this two-piece article we will go over concussions, which are common among players who endure a large amount of tackles. But first, let's go over a less known, less visible killer of football players that fails to get any attention: heat-related deaths.
Some Startling Statistics
According to research conducted by researchers at the University of Georgia, the number of heat-related deaths among football players has tripled between 1994 and 2009. How many football players die each year with the new 300 percent increase? Around three; before 1994 only one football player’s life was claimed by heat. Even though it sounds like a small number, the fact that it happens in the first place is worrisome.
Details of the Study
For the study, the researchers designed a detailed database that collected information (over a period of many years, ever since the data was recorded) surrounding the deaths of 58 football players who died during practice sessions from overheating, including their individual height, weight, and position, as well as the time of day, temperature, and humidity. The results, which were published in the online journal International Journal of Biometeorology, found that most of the deaths occurred on the eastern United States, and happened on hotter than normal days. Georgia had the most fatalities, having six football players succumb to the heat.
The temperature was indeed hotter than average, but the air was also more humid. This led to a condition known as hyperthermia. Unlike hypothermia, which is caused by extended periods of time in freezing temperatures and can cause frostbite, hyperthermia is the exact opposite. It is caused by spending too much time in a hot, humid environment and can lead body temperatures to increase to dangerous, life-threatening levels, sometimes even going above 104 degrees. Symptoms include dry, red skin, nausea, vomiting, headaches, and low blood pressure. More dangerous effects include heat stroke, seizures, and an increased heart rate and respiration rate.
Even with constant weather monitoring on the day of the practice sessions, it can be hard to account for all of the equipment and padding that the football players must wear and the increased heat they have to endure. When all of these conditions are met, the results can be tragic.
Health experts believe that these heat-related deaths can be largely avoided as long as breaks are taken frequently and players have an opportunity to cool off before continuing their long, grueling sessions. Fortunately, the number of cases related to heat-related deaths in football players is far less than those related to concussions, as we will discuss in the second part of this two-part series.