Popular heat adjustment guidelines for young athletes take effect

A number of state athletic associations have adopted rules outlining a heat adjustment schedule for young athletes beginning practices in the coming weeks.

The regulations have been especially popular in hot, humid southern states like Florida, Georgia and Maryland, and restrict practices, usually during the first two weeks of the preseason to allow athletes to acclimate to the temperatures.

While the basis for many of the regulations was developed around 2009 and adopted by some schools across the country previously, the set of guidelines truly took off in high schools this year.

The rules are certainly reassuring parents as their players take the field this week. The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Association declared July 2012 the hottest month on record in U.S. history, following four years of record-breaking temperatures. USA Today reported that during the past 17 years, 40 of the 51 football players who have died from heat stroke were in high school.

Some states have banned practicing twice a day, while others have forbidden pads during the first days of the season or instated a temperature threshold. In Maryland, which had its third warmest July on record this year, players will practice for three hours per day for the first five days with no pads and no contact. Regulations stipulate that the three hours must include a warm-up, a cool-down and plenty of hydration. On the sixth day, players can don football helmets and pads and will be allowed on the field up to five hours per day, though only for three-hour stretches, to be followed with a single practice or rest the next day.

Parents and coaches can help ensure athletes' safety heading into the fall season by closely monitoring their behavior for signs of dehydration or heat stroke and limiting the length of practice time on hot days.