Berkeley Prep, USF partner in student athlete heat safety study

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At Berkeley Preparatory School, the football team is one week into preseason training. The players sprint fast, hit hard, and sweat a lot. 

Running drills in extreme heat and humidity are part of being an athlete in Florida.

"Safety of our student-athletes is our number one priority," said Director of Sports Medicine Eddie Bunton.

Full-time athletic trainers are at every practice and game, keeping a close eye on the players and the weather conditions. Now they're hoping to tackle heat-related illnesses. 

The school teamed up with researchers at USF to conduct a heat impact study, monitoring how the player's bodies react to the hot temps and rigorous training.

"The first two weeks of football season is really important because the athletes are just getting used to the environment and the types of exercises and all that that they’re doing," USF Associate Professor Dr. Rebecca Lopez said.

All of the 32 participants swallow a radio-transmitter capsule about five-hours before they hit the gridiron. Dr. Lopez and her team use it to track body temperature.

They're also asking the players questions about how they physically feel. The weather is monitored, heart rate monitors are worn, and hydration data is being tracked.

"We’re measuring everything that they drink, we’re weighing them before and after every practice to see how much they sweat," said Lopez.

Dr. Lopez wants to use the data to improve heat policies for athletes at schools across the state, and hopefully save lives.

"Ultimately, I want to change the regulations in the state of Florida so that it's safer," she said.

Dr. Lopez would like to see mandated protocols like trainers at every school, cold tubs on campuses, and practice schedules modified based on the heat and humidity.

The study runs 11 days and wraps up this week. A grant from the NATA Research & Education Foundation completely funded this research.