Heat Is On

Change is in the air this preseason. New NCAA regulations prohibit two-a-day practices on consecutive days and limit the number of hours teams can be participating in football-related activities. In this second installment, Randy Oravetz, FSU's director of sports medicine, talks about the Seminoles' approach to the new rules. In fact, FSU is part of a study designed to learn about ways to help protect players from heat-related illnesses.

Change is in the air this preseason.

New NCAA regulations prohibit two-a-day practices on consecutive days and limit the number of hours teams can be participating in football-related activities. The rules changes, approved in April by the NCAA's Management Council, were made to protect players from heat-related illnesses.

Florida State coach Bobby Bowden has said he's fine with having to limit his practices since very team across the country must follow the same rules. Randy Oravetz, the Seminoles' veteran director of sports medicine, also believes the new regulations will be beneficial as the new era of players are bigger, stronger and faster.

"The problem with heat and the deaths that have occurred, whether it's high school, college or professional football, shows you that we really had to take a re-evaluation of how we are approaching this (summer practice)," Oravetz said.

At the NFL level, the Carolina Panthers, Philadelphia Eagles and Chicago Bears are participating in a study designed to learn about ways to help prevent exhaustion. Every day following practice, the Panthers pick about 15 players at random and wrap a plastic bag around their hand to collect their sweat. The bags are designed to study a player's sweat content and sodium loss.

Oravetz said the collegiate level is also continuing ways to recognize, prevent and treat heat-related illnesses. FSU, Florida, Georgia, Auburn and South Carolina are participating in a study conducted by the National Athletic Trainers' Association in conjunction with the NCAA.

"The hope is by going to this 2-for-1 (practice), we can show we have less (heat-related) problems and it will also help show us how we can attack the heat," Oravetz said.

"The research shows you can practice in the heat but it must be done correctly. How much water do you distribute to your players? How much of a break due you give them on the practice field? We are just going to try to tie this data all together. We are continuing to preach to the kids that if you take care of your body, it will take care of you."

The NCAA decided to accelerate that approach.

Freshmen and transfers no longer are allowed to practice in the days before returning players arrive. Preseason practice now must begin with a five-day "acclimatization" period in which only one practice can be held per day, and that practice cannot exceed three hours.

Plus, no teams longer can practice twice a day on consecutive days. Coaches must adjust their practice schedules, although teams still can practice the same number of times (29) as they could last year.

While Oravetz welcomes alternating two-a-day practices, he's concerned on how the changes impact incoming freshmen. FSU players report Tuesday morning with the first practice scheduled for Wednesday.

"I am a little bit leery that the freshmen get thrown in with the varsity. They are not sure what's going on, " Oravetz said.

"That's what I am waiting to see, how that plays out. I really would like to have them for a day or two by themselves without everyone yelling and screaming. When the varsity comes out, it's full go and they (freshmen) are going along for the ride. We are going to have to be very careful with them when we do extra running, or extra anything, because I don't know how he reacts. They don't know where their locker is. When they walk in, they already have a problem."

While critics argue that teams won't be as sharp entering the first game due to practice-time reduction, Oravetz takes the opposite approach, believing players will be refreshed and in better all-around shape.

On days in which two-a-days are allowed, players also must be given at least three continuous hours of recovery time -- without any meetings or football-related activities -- between the end of the first practice and the start of the second session.

"I think there's going to be a tendency for coaches to take a more mental (approach)," Oravetz said. "If a player is not tired, he's going to be able to study better, run better. … I think the learning curve is going to increase.

"There's more meeting time. Players should be well-rested. They should be well-hydrated. They should be well-nourished. Hopefully, the long-term affects will be better for players. The season is becoming longer and longer. By starting earlier, you are into the summer heat. Now we are playing games before Labor Day where that was never the case."

Oravetz also has kept a close eye on the Seminoles' summer conditioning sessions, which ended last week.

"I think things went well. They've trained hard," Oravetz said.

"Just being around, I believe there's a different attitude. I believe they are ready to get back to business. I think this team can be different, if the leadership shows up. We can't wait to develop leadership. We need some of these guys to step up and take charge from the very first day."

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