Triple-digit temperatures - coupled with high humidity - for the last two weeks, continue to cause concern for football coaches and the athletic trainer at Thomson High School.
The dangerously high temperatures also have caused problems for elderly and those with various illnesses. Since mid-July, in fact, 15 persons have been evaluated in the emergency room of McDuffie Regional Medical Center for heat-related symptoms, according to Debbie Jones, a hospital spokeswoman.
Again on Tuesday, officials with the National Weather Service issued a heat advisory, warning persons who are outside to use extreme caution during outdoor activities.
It's been so hot that a recent football practice session had to be canceled at Thomson High School.
"It was just too hot for us to practice that day, so I went and told Coach Welsh they couldn't go outside," recalled Brooks Johnson, who serves as athletic trainer at Thomson High School and also teaches health at R.L. Norris Elementary School. "The safety of the kids is what I was concerned about. One of my biggest roles is prevention."
Coach Welsh agreed. And practice was canceled.
"The kids responded real well, though, the next two days," said Defensive Coordinator John Barnett. "We finished the week with two real good practices after the team had the day off."
Coaches have to strictly adhere to a heat policy that is in place by the McDuffie County Board of Education. Similar guidelines are in place also by the Georgia High School Association.
Weigh-ins before and after each practice have become the norm for football players at Thomson High School of late, according to Mrs. Johnson.
"They get weighed before and immediately after practice," she pointed out. "All of that is mandatory under the school system's heat policy."
This year, there have actually been less heat-related problems than last year, Mrs. Johnson said, attributing it to football players being better conditioned than they were this time last year. There were a lot more problems last year and it wasn't as hot, she explained.
"They are definitely better conditioned and that makes a big, big difference," she said.
Mrs. Johnson advises football players to eat their lunch everyday and drink a lot of non-sugary beverages. "I preach eating and drinking right all the time. I tell them they should drink nothing carbonated and stay away from drinks that contain sugar."
Four players have had to be treated for some dehydration problems in the last two weeks, but nothing serious, Mrs. Johnson said.
In three of those cases, it was because the athletes had not eaten lunch or because they had not been drinking enough. The other case was because the athlete had a virus that he didn't know he had until practice got underway.
"In this type of weather, if you don't eat and don't drink enough, you can really get sick out here in these high temperatures and heat," Mrs. Johnson said.