Exclusive: Coach Says 'No Winner' in Player Death Verdict

Heat Deaths in Youth Football Preventable, Experts Say

With his team, O'Donnell said he takes all the proper precautions during games and practices. Players are given water whenever it's requested, and he carefully times practices to prevent overwork. His staff is also trained in CPR and defibrillation.

But in a tough sport like football, O'Donnell said nothing can guarantee a player's safety.

"It could happen to anyone," said said. "A kid can go down right now as I'm standing here, and you really have no control over it."

According to both the American College of Sports Medicine and the National Athletic Trainers' Association, the risk of heat deaths can be minimized by proper training techniques.

In 2005, the ACSM released a set of specific guidelines for how coaches should handle practices to reduce the risk of heat-related death and injury.

Included among the recommendations were that there should be no two-a-days during the first five days of practice; the use of helmets, shoulder pads and other protective gear should be gradually introduced over the first five days; and practices should be limited to no more than three hours during the first five days.

"What I tell coaches is that everything we recommend for safety is going to help performance," said Bergeron, one of the authors of the guidelines.

"All of these deaths happen on the first one or two days of practice, so it's clearly a case of doing too much too soon," he said. "The thing needs to be progressive. Everything needs to be introduced progressively, and if this is done, the athletes will respond positively."

In June, the NATA released its own set of guidelines, essentially echoing the ACSM report.

Football may get the most attention when it comes to heat-related deaths and injuries, but according to a study commissioned by the National Federation of State High School Associations, athletes in other sports and even marching band members are also at risk.

The National Center for Catastrophic Injury Research says that "heat-related deaths continue to be the cause of a majority of indirect deaths" in high school sports, including cross-country running and wrestling.

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