NORTH MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - In an attempt to avoid heat exhaustion at all costs, the North Myrtle Beach High School football team could be seen out practicing in just their shoulder pads for protective gear Monday.
The reason is so players have the opportunity to gradually get accustomed to playing in the heat. Monday marked the first day high school football players in South Carolina can practice in shoulder pads.
Athletic Director Joe Quigley, with North Myrtle Beach High School, said easing into packing on the equipment gives players the chance to get used to playing with it in the heat. Beginning last Friday, teams were only able to practice with helmets, but as time goes on, they will gradually be able to add more padding.
Quigley also said because South Carolina stays hot and humid through October, it's important to take certain precautions like not holding practice during the hottest time of the day.
"We talk about this with each other and we talk with our coaches. We have a plan, we follow our plan," Quigley said. "If it gets too hot and humid, we stop. The number of water breaks are incredible now. We are ready to go if we have to give cold baths. If we see a kid being close to heat illness then we are going to make sure that child is not participating."
Players will be able to suit up in their full padding starting on Wednesday.
A new rule for high school football players is also helping keep players safe. This new rule makes certain positioning during a block illegal because it can increase the chance of injury to the opponent.
Quigley said the Federation of State High School Associations is pushing the heads up program, which teaches kids to tackle with their heads up, decreasing the chance of getting a head injury. According to Quigley, the heads up program will host a clinic in Horry County one day in August where coaches and trainers will be updated on new ways to teach the correct way to tackle.
"I think we have to chance football to save football. If you could take the head out of it a little bit so we're not beating on each others heads all the time. Some of the rule changes too where there's less contact per week, which I think is good," said Head Athletic Trainer Keeter Hayes at North Myrtle Beach High School.
High school teams like North Myrtle Beach are only allowed 90 minutes of hit time each week during practice, another method aimed at reducing the number of head injuries on the football field.