Archive for Wednesday, August 8, 2001

Heat-related deaths show need for caution locally

August 8, 2001

Practice for fall sports starts Monday, and although conditioning and preparation are extremely important, having players on the field is as well.

During the last two weeks, four athletes all football players have died while practicing in extensive heat. Minnesota Vikings tackle Korey Stringer, Florida freshman Eraste Austin and Clinton Central High (Ind.) junior Travis Stowers all died due to excessive heat. Rashidi Wheeler, a Northwestern senior, died of bronchial asthma.

A brain aneurysm was Stowers' cause of death originally, but it was later determined that his temperature was 108 degrees when he died. Stringer vomited three times before dying of heat stroke. The Occupational Health and Safety Administration is now looking into work and safety conditions at the Vikings' camp.

Athletes have to be pushed to reach peak performance, and commitment to their teams keeps them coming back for another grueling day of practice.

Northwestern defensive backs coach Pat Fitzgerald dispelled the notion that training should change because of the recent deaths.

"I would think about the triathlete that goes and does 26 miles of this and 18 miles of that and finishes with a run. We weren't even close to doing something like that today," Fitzgerald said in an interview with "Football by far is not the most extreme sport that you condition for."

Probably not, but throwing on anywhere from nine to 15 pounds of equipment brings extra stress. Wearing a helmet that allows little ventilation is also more difficult for a football player.

Training might not need to change, but the monitoring of athletes should. A few more water breaks here and a little more rest in between drills there could mean Korey Stringer would remain the only NFL player to ever die of heat stroke.

Wheeler's death also supports another need if players have health conditions, they need to be monitored more. Asthma, heart murmurs, or any other condition have to be addressed.

High school athletes in Tonganoxie have had the opportunity for strength and conditioning training this summer at the multi-purpose building. Working outside can also help this preparation for the heat, but it's quite possible that not all Tonganoxie athletes were doing one or either. Prepared or not, the heat is a factor for everyone.

There's also a difference between needing to be in a little better shape and nearing heat exhaustion, but if athletes take steps to staying hydrated and self-monitored, no stories should have to be written about a Tonganoxie athlete in the same situation.


The KC Wizards/KCKCC soccer clinic entered its fifth year in Tonganoxie and its fifth year with Mo Johnston as an instructor. The Wizards veteran forward was available for comment during the clinic and was an enjoyable athlete to interview. Athletes are constantly put under a scope to determine who's nice and who's difficult, but Johnston is definitely an encouraging part of professional sports.

Johnston was interacting well with the camp participants, and throughout the interview he emphasized with a Scottish accent that the camp was a way for kids to have fun and enjoy the sport.

Johnston, a member of the defending MLS champions, probably isn't quite as well-known as football or

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baseball stars, but he has the same genuine personality as the Royals' Mike Sweeney is said to have. Maybe the John Rocker-type athletes can take some notes.

The trading deadline has passed for Major League Baseball, and the Royals made another deal before July 31, sending Rey Sanchez to Atlanta for two minor leaguers. Sanchez is worth more than two players at that level.

And this is a deal with the Braves. Don't let the rich get richer. The Braves were having their first uneventful season in more than a decade when a midseason surge has them in first place and hopeful for the playoffs yet again.

The deal might have had some finances with it. Hundreds of thousands of dollars sometimes are thrown in to even out the transaction, which I hope occurred in this deal.

Wonder how money is transferred. Would the Braves send one of those big company checks, maybe with Ted Turner's face as its background, to Kansas City? Oh, wait, the larger checks are always plain. OK. Scratch Big Ted. It would just read "Kansas City Royals Baseball Club" after pay to the order of, and "void if not cashed by the World Series."

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