In this 2011 file photo, Dacula High School football players take a water break during practice.
ATLANTA Georgia is banning three-a-day football practices and will fine schools that violate rules aimed at keeping student-athletes from succumbing to heat.
The Georgia High School Association decided Monday to establish the new guidelines for schools statewide.
Georgia’s new guidelines require players to go through five practices in only helmets, shirts and shorts before going to full pads Aug. 1.
They also state that two-a-day practices can’t occur on consecutive days or exceed five hours in a single day; and practicing in pads is limited to three hours a day, the Florida Times-Union reported.
The new rules come after University of Georgia researchers reported increases in player deaths nationwide in recent years.
Researchers found that heat-related deaths among football players across the country tripled to nearly three per year between 1994 and 2009 after averaging about one per year the previous 15 years. The University of Georgia reports that overall, Georgia led the nation in deaths with seven fatalities. Two Georgia players died in August.
“Our previous research shows heat illness rates are highest in the Southeast,” said Michael Ferrara, professor of kinesiology and associate dean for research in UGA’s College of Education, who co-directed the study with Bud Cooper, associate department head for the department of kinesiology.
Researcher Andrew Grundstein says he was surprised that more than half the deaths occurred during morning practices, when temperatures are generally cooler. But he said the research found that it’s often very humid in the morning, which increases heat stress on players.
UGA researchers found that high school student-athletes need about 10-14 days to acclimate their bodies to the heat stress in preseason practices in late July and August. They say that gradually adjusting to these conditions can help minimize the risk of injury to student-athletes.