The Badger football season kicks off in three weeks and while head coach Barry Alvarez and his staff prepare their team for the season opener against Virginia, the fall training camp fields are covered in ice and water as well as assorted sports drinks in every color and coolers to keep them cold. Acknowledging the recent extreme temperatures and excessive heat warnings, the Badger staff considers team hydration and safety to be a top priority at camp. Two-a-day practices begin this week for the team and both the Wisconsin coaches and trainers are stressing heat education along with football.
The Badgers already practice early in the morning and late in the afternoon in order to avoid the heat of the day. But just like drills and conditioning, dealing with the heat has become an important part of the Badgers training regimen.
“Athletes, when it’s heat related, have to be trained and have to take a responsibility,” Alvarez said last week’s Wisconsin Football Media Day. He believes training the players for the heat begins with prevention and awareness. Mandatory weigh-ins and communication between the athletes and the UW staff is key.
Using the player’s initial reporting weight as a base, the Wisconsin trainers measure a player’s hydration before and after practices. Right away they’re given two liters of water as an emphasis that we want them to drink, Helwig continued. And a liter is 2.2 pounds, so what we will do is have them weigh as they go out to practice and weigh when they come back in. We look at the amount of fluid loss, the body weight loss and they can then determine how many bottles of water they have to replace.
“When they get to the point where they feel dehydrated or faint, we’ve got to know,” Alvarez said.
According to Helwig, symptoms of heat stress are subtle. Common symptoms like excessive perspiration, feeling agitated, or headaches go unnoticed by players during football practice. More serious signs like muscle cramping need to be reported to the trainers.
The key to prevention of heat stress and more serious problems is putting together all of these symptoms with players paying attention to their bodies and how they feel. Should any player experience any signs of heat stress or show too much weight loss due to dehydration, the UW trainers and medical staff take the appropriate measures for the health and safety of the athlete.
So, while the August sun keeps beating down on the Wisconsin fall training camp, the Badgers are keeping safe and cool in preparation for the Cavaliers on August 25th.