New heat rules in place for Ga. high school football

WAYCROSS, Ga. – High School football teams all across Georgia hit the practice fields this week with new rules aimed at keeping players safer in the heat.

The Georgia High School Association set down new regulations in March after a three-year study and the heat-related deaths of two high school football players last year.

In Waycross, the Ware County Gators hit the field Thursday morning, and everyone was a bit more conscious about the heat and the new rules.

There were no pads, just shorts, T-shirts and helmets. That's a new rule for the first week.

Coaches carried around a monitor to measure heat and humidity. If it reached a certain level, they'd have to get off the field.

Coaches, players and parents didn't seem to mind the new rules.

"At first I was a little concerned, but the more we began to study them and implement them, we're really excited about it," head coach Ed Dudley said of the new rules. "We think it's something that can benefit our program, trying to stay within the rules and do what's best for our players."

At Thursday's practice were two tubs of ice ready for a player that gets too hot, in addition to the mist fans and water stations players already use.

Then there's the Wet Bulb Globe Thermometer, which measures the temperature, humidity and effect of the sun. If it reads over 92, practice is over.

"I probably walk over to them every 10 minutes: 'Hey, what's the temperature, what's the temperature like?'" Dudley said. "We've been within the range, and so it's been safe to practice."

Thursday's practice was one of five the new rules require players to have wearing just shorts, shirts and helmets. On Wednesday, players can start practicing with pads. It's an effort to get their bodies accustomed to the heat.

"When you put the pads on, it's way crazier because it's a lot heavier and sweat more," player Xavier Tobar said. "And in July when we preparing to do all that, we just do helmets and jerseys and it's still hot."

Also on Wednesday, schools will be allowed to go to two-a-day practices, a total of five hours a day. With the new rules, three-a-days are a thing of the past.

Parents say the new rules are a good effort.

"I feel good about it," parent Felices King said. "I feel like if I don't come, my son would still be safe. I don't have any concerns. I don't think that, you know, they would fall out or anything."

Dudley agrees.

"We've only had two days. They've been two great days," he said. "I think that going forward it will really help me make decisions to keep our players safe, so I like that."

If a school fails to follow the rules, it can face a fine anywhere from $500 to $1,000.