HANOVER, VA (WWBT) - Several area high schools are now using a fitness program that focuses on protecting football players when it's hot and humid. In the past six years, 21 young men have died from heat stroke while playing football.
While it's still an important element, this educational program is about teaching coaches and players that staying safe in the heat is about more than just drinking water.
Mike Craven owns Mike's Olympic Gym in Mechanicsville. He's helping implement a program called true fitness solutions at Lee Davis in Hanover and Deep Run and Highland Springs High Schools in Henrico.
Craven says, "it's a program that brings awareness to issues other than dehydration that lead to exertional heat stroke, and really the number one cause of exertional heat stroke is high intensity effort combined with a what's called a low MET score."
A MET score is the measure of aerobic strength and showcases the ability to withstand heat stress. It centers around a person's heart rate. Players with low met scores are less tolerant of heat and humidity.
Craven says aerobic ability is often forgotten in football because the sport is so fast-paced. "We've got this mentality that because it's a power speed sport that that's all that necessary in conditioning and that's not true."
Craven says jogging is key for football players to safely build endurance. Coach Zac Hayden says the program is helping players improve through individual fitness plans.
Hayden says, "we've really focused on building their base line up with a jog and getting their conditioning up, and getting their aerobic potential up at a level where we can keep working them and build their capacity, so the jogging aspect is really something we've worked on this summer."
These roughly 80 players will continue with their individualized program throughout this entire season. They will be retested after and have a new program designed for next year.