While the Minnesota Vikings and football fans around the world continue to mourn for Korey Stringer, the issue of player safety and training camp policy comes to the forefront. Stringer, 27, died from heat stroke early Wednesday morning, one day after he struggled through practice in 90-degree heat. Following the tragic news, NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue ordered every team to review its rules on summer training. What else needs to be done to ensure that an unfortunate event like this never happens again?
Here are your thoughts on Stringer's death and what it means for pro football:
League must wise up and heighten regulations
This is not rocket science. When temperatures and humidity rise to a certain level, it becomes dangerous to everyone, not just football players. There must be standards set to limit activities as temperatures rise. If this cannot be done voluntarily, then perhaps laws are required.
Football preparation should not be changed
This certainly is a tragedy and my thoughts go out to the Stringer family and the Minnesota Vikings. This, however, is a very rare occurrence and I don't think we need to start implementing rules, restrictions and regulations that will ultimately affect the way football has been played for years and years. On the other hand, I do think that players should be man enough to speak freely if they are not feeling well, and all the players should be educated before training camp about the signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion. I also agree that each player should be given a extensive health examination to spot any warning signs that might prevent such a tragedy. In the end, football remains a brutal and violent sport, and all the players who make it to the NFL level know the rigors of two-a-days in the summer heat.They know that they need to stay in relatively good shape in the offseason to prepare. The players have some culpability as well.
Summer camps are vital
||This is not rocket science. When temperatures and humidity rise to a certain level, it becomes dangerous to everyone, not just football players. ”
||— Dallas, Ypsilanti, Mich.
Summer camps are part of the sport. If players are not conditioned for playing in excessive heat, they will not be prepared for early-season games. Anybody who has played football knows that you can run and run, but a player won't be in "game shape" after a game or two. If not for summer camps, the process of training would be that much harder for the first few games. However, it is of extreme sadness that such a wonderful player and an even greater person paid the ultimate price -- my thoughts and prayers are with him.
Too many questions remain unanswered
My heart goes out to the family and friends of Korey Stringer, and to the Vikings organization. The article by Dr. Jerry Punch explains the situation well when it comes to heat index and the wearing of football equipment. I'm sure the Vikings' trainers are feeling guilty at this point. Did they have a hand-held temp/heat-index gauge? If they did not, I'm sure all NFL camps will utilize them now. I know a trainer at the NCAA Division II level and he has said there is no excuse for a player to die of heat stroke because it should be caught at the point of heat exhaustion. Things that should have been taken into consideration: How much weight had he lost since the beginning of camp? Has he been using diuretics: caffeine, alcohol, or performance-enhancing substances (even the legal ones), etc? Did anyone else have heat stress or exhaustion? As a linebackers coach at a small high school in Oklahoma, I know we are always on the lookout for signs of heat stress, exhaustion and stroke. We have concern bordering on fear every time the temperature is near 100 degrees or the heat index is high. It is not as if these guys have a warning light that goes off when they are in trouble. Sometimes the signs are subtle, but I believe someone should have caught it sooner.
Tragedy could strike again without changes
This is always such a sudden ending to an athlete's life. Whether it be Korey Stringer, Dale Earnhardt or Derrick Thomas, the loss of an athlete is terrible, showing their mortality. As an athlete, this is not how you expect your life to end. In my opinion, I am shocked that more football players do not die in this fashion. When I was in college playing for my little school, our coaches pushed people to point of sickness and exhaustion in 100-degree heat. This is a tragedy that should not take place in this game or any other one.
Extra precautions are needed
||As cold as it sounds, these are professionals and they should work as hard as they can and take as much pain as they can. ”
||— Chad, St. Paul, Minn.
I know that during some ultra-endurance running and triathlon events, the competitors are weighed to make sure they haven't lost too much body weight during the competition. If they have lost too much weight (mostly fluid loss), they are not allowed to continue. Also, some runners wear pulse rate monitors to guide them in their training. A wireless pulse rate and body temperature monitor would allow trainers to identify football players at risk for heat exhaustion and stroke.
League must take harder look at supplements
I think there are several things that need to change with the way training camp is held. First of all, if we really look at what these players are taking (supplements), it probably includes fat burners or energy pills, which contain caffeine and other dehydrating substances that have been known to cause heart failure or even heat exhaustion. When I played ball, we where encouraged not to take these supplements during the hot times of the year. You can be in the best shape of your life and one of these supplements can cause a severe breakdown or overheating of the body. I think the NFL should look into this and see about making them illegal or at least ban players from taking them during training camp. Another thing that should change is when the practices are held. Why not have them at 5 a.m. and at 9 p.m. At least then players won't be beaten down by the sun and the overall temperature will be cooler. An argument against this might be that the players will not be used to the heat, but when are they ever used to it?
Push season back
The only real answer is to push back the start of training camps, and in turn, the NFL season. Do you think players would rather play in August or January? If you limit practices or ease the pace of training camps, you are only putting a band-aid over the problem. If players were to practice inside, it would only be a matter of time before this happened in a game. I believe the temperature of the Dallas Cowboys' opener last year was around 140 degrees on the field. That is ridiculous. What would be the harm of postponing the season one month? Would the NFL die if camps opened on September 1 instead of July 29? Would football fans not watch the Super Bowl in late February? I seriously doubt it.
The Woodlands, Texas
Size must be examined
||It is not as if these guys have a warning light that goes off when they are in trouble. Sometimes the signs are subtle, but I believe someone should have caught it sooner. ”
||— Jay, Oaks, Okla.
Tragedies like this are going to keep happening as long as college and pro sports demand that athletes get bigger and stronger. The body type Korey Stringer had can't handle the rigors of training camp in that heat. Plus, no one should be out in 106-degree heat for an extended period of time. The Vikings missed some obvious signs of distress coming from Stringer in the two days leading up to his death.
League must step in for prideful players
I think the NFL needs to take steps to protect players. Perhaps something along the lines of what the military uses -- classifying days and activity levels may prevent another tragedy. I also think that players should also undergo a more extensive health evaluation. Football, and more specifically, pro football, is a big business and the investment in players needs to be safeguarded. Not only for the teams, but also for the players themselves. I think it is unrealistic that players should be expected to speak up simply because of the pressure that is put on them to perform and the ridicule that is given if a player appears 'soft' or unwilling to go that extra mile. That may sound ignorant or old-fashioned, but peer pressure is just as much of a motivator or deterrent to behavior in the NFL as it is with teens or any other group of people.
Hard work is part of the game
Yes, this is a tragedy and I am very upset by it. But as cold as it sounds, these are professionals and they should work as hard as they can and take as much pain as they can. I'm going to be a lineman at college this year and even in intense heat, I need to work as hard as I possibly can to get looked at. Korey had a very strong work ethic and, ultimately, that is what lead to his death. Even though he was a reputable professional, he wasn't going to sit out -- he was trying to improve so he could be the best lineman possible. It is a tragedy, but he died doing the best he could, and in that, I see much pride.
St. Paul, Minn.
My family and I went to Mankato Sunday night to see the players as they arrived for training camp. My two oldest boys, aged 9 and 7, were running around trying to get autographs from different players. We were fortunate enough to get Korey Stringer to take a picture with our boys that night. Needless to say, they were quite shaken when they learned of this tragedy. They are just glad that he was able to take a moment to truly make their day. Thanks, Korey.