Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Two-a-Day Practices: Worth the cost?

The time has come to seriously consider whether two-a-day practices are worth the damage that they cause the athlete. The single most severe physiological stress that is placed on the athlete’s body is the stress caused by heat. One need’s to think (and decide) if simply adhering to past tradition of two-a-day practices being a rite of passage is necessary with the knowledge base that is available in athletic performance and injury prevention.

It is August and it is hot outside. Not just here in Arizona where we can expect the temperature to be in excess of 110 degrees (with a low temperature often around 90 degrees at night), but throughout the country. Already this fall there have been four high school football athletes and one coach die tragically due to the extreme physiological stress of the heat. The four football athletes all suffered from exertional heat stroke (a heat related illness which results in the core body temperature increasing to the point of internal organ damage), while the football coach suffered from an underlying heart condition that was exacerbated by the heat. While it has not been reported or indicated, these tragedies bring out the need to educate athletes of all ages on the effects that ergogenic supplements and energy drinks have on the human body. Many of these energy drinks have high levels of caffeine, along with taurine and gaurana, with the end result being an athlete whose central nervous system is greatly stimulated and one who dehydrates faster. With two-a-day practices where athletes are hitting in both practices, it is important to consider the role that fatigue plays. Fatigue will not only be caused by prolonged exercise, but it will also be greatened by dehydration. (Not allowing enough time for the body to rehydrate, along with ingesting ergogenic drinks that speed the urinary process facilitate this dehydration.) As the body fatigues, the amount of force necessary to create injury is lessened.

Considering the research publicized concerning concussive and non-concussive forces applied to the head during football and soccer, excessive hitting and practice can easily become a liability for the athletic program. The National Football League has practice limits. The NCAA has rules against consecutive two-a-day practices as well as the adoption of testing for sickle cell trait which may lead to sickling of the hemoglobin and excertional rhabdomolysis. Beyond this there is little or no consistency in regards to practice safety. Dr. Robert Cantu (Boston University), pioneer in the study and treatment of sport related traumatic head injuries, stated in an August 21, 2011 Washington Post article: “It’s inconceivable to me that you can take young scholar athletes at an age that is more vulnerable and have them play more dangerously than at the highest professional level.” Well said.

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