JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Imagine running around for about an hour wearing 10 pounds of pads and a helmet that traps in heat on an open field with no shade in near-100-degree temperatures.
Such is the life of a Jacksonville Jaguars football player, and many other gridiron athletes around the country in the month of August.
Jaguars athletic trainers are working with players to battle heat exhaustion and keep players hydrated.
Some players said they don't mind the heat.
"It's not that bad. It's hotter in St. Louis, actually," Jaguars first round draft pick and former Missouri Tigers quarterback Blaine Gabbert said.
"If I can stand, I can play," Jaguars offensive tackle Eben Britton added. "If I haven't passed out on the ground, then I think I'm good to go."
Britton said he's been through the brunt of it.
"You start sweating. Your mind starts going, 'You're hot, you're steaming,'" he said.
Those are the kind of signs athletic trainers look out for to prevent heat exhaustion.
"We start before the first practice and give them an education class and talk about what to wear, what to eat, what to drink and, probably more importantly, what not to drink," Jaguars head athletic trainer Mike Ryan said.
What not to drink is caffeine, he said. The Jaguars' rule of thumb is to drink half Gatorade, half water.
"It's a way that they're getting the calories, they're getting the fluid, but they're also getting the sodium, which is very important in a long, hot practice for these guys to have the salt to avoid heat issues," Ryan said.
Playing in thin, light-colored clothing also helps, he said.
"We try to cut the guys' shirts off so they have air, because your body is like a big radiator, and it actually wants to dissipate a lot of the heat, so the more skin you have exposed, especially in the core, is a great way to get rid of the heat," Ryan said. "So a lot of the bigger guys don't like to have their bellies hanging out, but it's important for them to be protected in the heat so they expose that torso to get rid of more heat in their body."
If the athletes aren't acting right, the trainers step in.
"We have what we call a watch list with the bigger players," Ryan said. "Anybody that has that history of heat illness, lost weight, had issues, they're on our watch list. We give them a thermal pill that they swallow and it's a receptor. So we can measure their body-core temperature to the nearest 100th degree."
Playing in the heat is part of what the players signed up for.
"It's just part of what you do," Britton said. "You get used to it, and it's part of training camp, and you just have to learn to fight through it."
But even for the tough guys, it's important to recognize when it's time to take a break, Ryan said.
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