Handling The Heat

Everyone is excited about the start of football practice at Ole Miss, but behind the scenes preparations are being made to help the players deal with the extreme heat conditions they will be facing in the coming weeks. Read about it inside.

With temperatures soaring over 100 degrees the past week in Oxford, and mid to high 90s, plus a couple of days slated to be above 100, predicted for next week, the arrival of fall camp has at least one crew scrambling to make sure they are ready for the inevitable.

"You can't escape the heat all the time, you just have to be ready to handle it," said Football Trainer Tim Mullins, who has diligently prepared his staff for the heat issues they will facing during August practices.

Tim Mullins

Mullins and company will have a lot of condiments, so to speak, at their disposal - unlimited ice, water, ice packs, Gatordade, cool fans, but being smart about the heat also plays a major part in the equation.

"Coach (Houston) Nutt does a great job of utilizing the Indoor Practice Facility when the players have reached their heat tolerance levels. He really watches out for his players and takes care of them," Mullins noted. "We discuss that issue constantly and he looks for all the signs of overdoing it in that heat."

The heat plan is not real complicated, but diligence and attention to detail are required.

"We take a lot of measures to make sure our guys don't succumb to the heat," Mullins continued. "The first thing is that we educate the players on being well-hydrated, the importance of maintaining their hydration. Then we tell them all the signs to look for that their hydration level is not up to par."

Players have to have some self-discipline, according to Mullins.

"We tell them to check their urine when they use the bathroom. If it's clear, that's a sign of being hydrated. If it's darker, they are not hydrated enough," Mullins stated. "The goal for hydration is for them to have to get up and relieve themselves in the middle of the night.

"They are also responsible for drinking the liquids provided them. We give each player two 32-ounce squirt bottles - one for home and one for their lockers. All they have to do is bring them in and we fill them up with Gatorade. We also give them packs of Gatorade to mix with water if they run out at home - all they want. We can make sure they are drinking enough liquids when they are here, but it's their responsibility to drink enough when they aren't. That's important because proper hydration starts when they get up in the morning and does not end until they go to bed at night."

There are other signs as well, Tim said.

Brandon Bolden

"We weigh them four times a day. A player can lose 8-12 pounds in a practice, but what we have to check is how they recover before the next practice. They should gain a good percentage of that back if they are hydrated properly," he explained.

When the Rebs are under the direct care of the trainers - on premise at practice or meetings - everything they need is at their disposal.

In the meeting rooms, for instance, there are water bottles, pretzels and dill pickles.

"The pretzels and big dill pickles help get some sodium back in their bodies. The water, obviously, is for more hydration," Mullins said.

At practices, the trainers amp up everything.

"We average using 2,500 pounds of ice per practice," Tim noted. "They have unlimited amounts of ice and water at practice. We have 16 portable drinking machines and personnel moving them around constantly. They are full of ice water. We always have a drinking machine within five yards of every player or group manned by one of our 16 student trainers. Players can get water whenever they want to.

"Right by the practice fields, we have what we call a cool zone, with tents, cool fans and ice tubs. If a player starts showing signs of dehydration, we put them in the tubs to cool their bodies down. We have ice towels everywhere to cool guys down between drills if they need it."

Immediately after practice, there are eight more ice tubs set up right outside the IPF entrance to the locker room. Players can get in those after practice and cool their bodies down as well.

Joel Kight

"We also do little things, like telling them to take their helmets off between drills and reps. Those helmets hold a lot of heat and one heat release for your body is the back of the head," said Mullins. "There are several little tips we have learned through the years that alleviate some of the heat issues we encounter."

The NCAA, Mullins says, also helps with the acclimation to the heat with their practice rules.

"We are required to have two days in shorts and helmets and two days in helmets and shoulder pads before you can go with full pads," he mentioned. "That's a good rule because it gives the body a chance to adjust to the heat slowly and more effectively."

No matter how many precautions are made, no matter how much teaching is done, in extreme heat, there are going to be examples of players overheating and dehydrating.

That's where advanced preparation becomes even more important to Mullins and his staff.

"Yesterday, we had all the ambulance drivers and emergency room personnel from Baptist Hospital in here for a meeting. They have practice schedules and we went over the whole procedure to get our players quick transportation and attention when we do need them," Mullins closed. "We are quick to send them to the hospital for IV fluids and treatment. We have specific action plans and guidelines.

"The rule of thumb is that if a player is cramping in two or more body parts, we're going to the hospital. We also look for dizziness and weakness. We take no chances and do not hesitate to send them there. We will even send players to the hospital for precautionary measures. If we have the slightest hint they are dehydrating or something is a little off, we put them in an ambulance or take them to the hopsital quickly. It's really not unusual, even with all the measures we take, to send several to the hospital each day."

The heat at football practices in August in Mississippi has always been an issue.

This year is no different, but all measures have been taken to make sure it can be managed and, in most all cases, conquered.

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