Another Heat-Related Fatality. Another Preventable Death?

Still, long after we've realized that humans are no match for heat and that even football players aren't indestructable super heroes, people are dying on football fields.

Last week 14-year-old Tyquan Brantley collapsed and died in South Carolina and yesterday in Plano a football assistant coach died, apparently of heat exhaustion. Prestonwood Christian Adacemy assistant football coach Wade McLain passed away after the team's first practice of the season.

While the Cowboys practice in the 75-degree cool of The Alamodome, north Texas is sweltering toward a record summer. Apparently you guys are headed for 109 degrees today and will soon threaten 1980 for the most consecutive days over 100. Today we're at 31; the record is 42.

I'm generally one of those "It's summer. It's hot. So what?" guys. In '80 I was a 16-year-old punk working at a record-pressing plant on Irving Boulevard in Dallas. My job? Take giant tubs of hardened, scraggly vinyl scraps from records and manually cram them into a 300-plus degree re-grind machine that melted them back into liquid vinyl for the next record. All while wearing jeans and being yelled at by my boss, who doubled as my dad. In the '70s I played football at Reed Junior High in Duncanville, where we beat the heat only with salt tablets and by taking two breaks per practice sharing a water hose. Shoot, even last weekend I got out and played tennis at noon.

Stubborn, yes. But not to a fault.

Even I realize that this heat can kill you. Especially if you're not acclimated.

You can read any number of stories claiming that all heat-related deaths are preventable, yet still it goes on.

But, believe it or not, it's getting better, not worse. We have fewer deaths, just more publicity of them.

The National Center for Catastrophic Sport Injury Research in Chapel Hill, N.C., reported that 132 football players suffered heat-related deaths in the U.S. from 1931 through 2010, including a record eight in 1970. Hasn't been more than three in a year since '90.

Since those eight in '70 we've gotten smarter. Medical attention is winning out over macho pride. Seems to me every school -- at the very least -- should keep a kiddie pool filled with ice water handy since doctors will tell you there is a 100% survival rate in those situations.

When Jimmy Johnson arrived to coach the Cowboys in 1989 he told a struggling kicker to "take your ass over to the Asthma field!" And in the '90s the Cowboys regularly practiced outdoors in St. Edward's in Austin twice a day in pads to the backdrop ambience of Jimmy yelling "Let the mind control the body, not the body control the mind." Water, it was often repeated, was for losers.

We know better now. Be careful out there.

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