JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – August can be a brutally hot month for student athletes who have already started conditioning with their school teams. Heat stroke can be deadly, and two years ago one local family experienced a close call.
Ribault High School stand out, Jaalen Ford, has grown up playing football in the Florida heat. That heat got the best of him when he collapsed during a game against Trinity Christian.
"Honestly I didn't feel anything at the time. I was exhausted and tired and a lot of stuff happened at once," Ford said. "And before you know it I was down."
Ford and his coach Anthony Flynn learned a valuable lesson about hydration.
"The way I saw him fall, it's one of the worst feelings because all the kids are like my sons to me," said Flynn. "My immediate response was run out on the field and see what's going on."
The Jacksonville Sports Medicine Program works to educate local student athletes and coaches about player safety. Executive Director Bob Sefcik says heat is their number one opponent.
"Even before the other team, we've got to worry about the heat that we're competing in," said Sefcik.
Sefcik says parents need to help by talking with their kids about the warning signs of heat stroke, which include rapid or racing heart beat, nausea, vomiting and skin that's cool and clammy to the touch.
He's moving forward with a plan to add immersion tubs to schools. The tubs of ice water are used for athletes who need to be cooled down immediately. He's also working on getting athletic trainers into five more Duval County high schools.
But in the meantime, Sefcik warns that coaches are not medical experts. Parents should not assume that coaches know the warning signs. They should ask their athletes who is trained to take them out of the game or practice if need be.