INDIANAPOLIS – As young athletes return to play for the fun, friendships and fitness of football, USA Football, the sport’s national governing body and a member of the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee, delivers heat preparedness best practices to youth programs nationwide with the Korey Stringer Institute (KSI) at the University of Connecticut.  

USA Football’s Youth Coach Certification, accredited by the U.S. Center for Coaching Excellence, features a heat and hydration module authored by KSI and delivered on-screen by KSI CEO DOUGLAS CASA, Ph.D., ATC. The module educates and prepares coaches to safeguard athletes in their care, spanning heat acclimatization, proper hydration, and avoiding excessive exposure to heat. The curriculum also informs how to respond should an athlete suffer a heat-related illness.  

More than 900,000 USA Football Youth Coach Certifications have been completed since 2007. No U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee member has had more youth coach certifications completed during this span. 

“Coaches play a vital role in creating safe exercise sessions for athletes, especially in the heat,” said KSI Chief Operating Officer REBECCA STEARNS, Ph.D., ATC., who also serves as a member of USA Football’s Medical Advisory Panel. “We know that heat illness is one of the top catastrophic injuries when athletes return to sport in July and August. We also know that we can reduce these injuries with awareness, proper policies, and prevention strategies.”

"USA Football has invested in providing youth coaches nationwide a premier education addressing heat illness risk factors, prevention strategies, and what to do if they suspect an exertional heat illness,” Dr. Stearns added. “Arming coaches with this information is a critical step in preventing and responding to exertional heat illness events that can ultimately save lives.” 

The mission of the Korey Stringer Institute, named in honor of the former Minnesota Vikings Pro Bowl offensive tackle, is to provide research, education, advocacy and consultation to maximize performance, optimize safety and prevent sudden death for the athlete, warfighter and laborer.  

Heat cramps, heat exhaustion, heat syncope and exertional heat stroke (EHS) are some potential medical conditions that could result from excessive heat exposure and dehydration. It’s important for coaches to know the causes, recognize the symptoms and understand how to treat each of these conditions.  

Below are recommendations from KSI and USA Football on how coaches and parents can reduce the risk of EHS and other heat-related illnesses.

  • Have your athletes undergo a period of heat acclimatization
  • Encourage athletes to come to practice hydrated
  • Allow athletes unlimited access to hydration during activity
  • Modify practice when environmental conditions become extreme (allowing additional rest/hydration breaks, reducing the intensity of practice, reducing the time of practice and reducing the equipment worn during practice)
  • Practice at an intensity that is appropriate for the fitness level
  • Encourage your athletes to speak up when they do not feel well -- create a culture where this is considered smart

USA Football and KSI recommend all youth sports programs to have an emergency action plan and to review it with all coaches and athletes to advance the safety of all present in a heat-related medical emergency.  

About USA Football:USA Football designs and delivers premier educational, developmental and competitive programs to advance and grow the sport. As the sport’s national governing body, member of the U.S. Olympic Committee and organizer of the U.S. National Team for international competition, USA Football partners with leaders in medicine, child advocacy and athletics to support positive football experiences for youth, high school and other amateur players. 

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