Back to School: Tucson HS prepares football players for heat, concussion prevention

Back to School: Tucson HS prepares football players for heat, concussion prevention
Mike Boese

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - The start of the 2018-2019 school year is less than two weeks away for students at Tucson High Magnet School, but for the football team, getting back to school starts Monday, July 23, with the official start of practice.

While the players are obviously preparing for success on the gridiron they're also preparing to practice in the heat. Triple-digit temperatures are expected this week and that means the players have to ease into practicing in their gear.

"For the first three days they're in helmet and shorts only. For the next two days they're in helmet, shoulder pads, and shorts. And then only after that, after that fifth day, are they allowed to (wear) full pads," THS Athletic Director Mike Boese said.

The coaches and Boese help the players to build up their bodies' ability to practice and sustain themselves in the heat. Over the summer during their unofficial practices the players do outdoor workouts to adjust to the warmer temperatures. When official practice begins, they ease into wearing their full gear so their bodies can adjust over time.

Along with that, Boese says they remind the players to drink water before and after practice, and they allow water breaks for the team roughly every 15 minutes.

One other thing they encourage players to do is listen to their bodies. If they feel overheated or light headed they tell players to take a break or sit practice out in an effort to prevent heat exhaustion or heat stroke, which requires players be taken to the hospital.

"We have a big Rubbermaid tub that we fill with water. I have four, big, 10-gallon bags of ice that we dump in there," Boese said of how they try to counter signs of heat exhaustion and heat stroke on the field.

While the team and coaches, along with Boese, keep the heat in mind as they prep for the season one other big thing they constantly have to be wary of is concussions.

For the past six years Boese has been teaching the heads-up technique. Essentially, instead of ducking your head - which is a natural human instinct to protect your face - the heads-up technique teaches players to tackle with their shoulders. That way they prevent concussions and neck or spinal injuries.

"If they follow proper instruction, the risk decreases. So if they use the proper heads-up technique, the risk decreases," Boese said.

The state does its part to help the athletes, as well. The Arizona Interscholastic Association has a tutorial called Brainbook that teaches the players the seriousness of concussions and what they feel like.

Boese says his focus with the football team is largely on the freshmen who might be new to the game. He works to teach them not only the proper technique, but many of the basics.

Above all, Boese says one of the key things that can help players is education; knowledge in tackling, the dangers of concussions in the long term, and the unexpected effects of blows to the head.

"A lot of people don't know that you don't have to hit your head to get a concussion. Because of the nature of human anatomy the brain floats in cerebral spinal fluid so if it sloshes back and forth and makes contact with sharp edges of the inside of the skull, that's going to cause a concussion," Boese said.

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