Thursday, August 7
No 2002 deaths from heatstroke

Associated Press

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- Fifteen football players died in the United States last year -- down from 23 in 2001 -- and none of the deaths was from heatstroke, according to an annual study.

Five died in 2002 after on-field head injuries, according to the study released Friday by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Three of those five were in high school, one was in youth football and one in a semipro league.

The other 10 died from natural causes not directly tied to the game but provoked by vigorous exercise, such as asthma or heart problems, according to the study.

The study reported that about 1.5 million junior high school and high school students play football in the United States. Colleges and universities field about 75,000 players.

Researchers were surprised at the lack of heatstroke deaths last year. The number of heatstroke deaths among football players had climbed in recent years, from 13 in the entire decade of the 1980s to 15 in the 1990s and seven in 2000 and 2001 combined.

"We have been concerned because heat-related deaths are either entirely or almost entirely avoidable," said Dr. Frederick Mueller, a professor and chairman of physical education, exercise and sport science at UNC-Chapel Hill.

"Fatalities like these often meant someone forgot to emphasize or practice what we and others have been reminding coaches and trainers about for years -- that players should get all the water they want in practice and have frequent cooling-off breaks to prevent these tragedies."

Mueller, chairman of the American Football Coaches' Committee of Football Injuries, directs the UNC-based National Center for Catastrophic Sports Injuries. The center produces annual reports on deaths and severe injuries from amateur and professional sports.

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