's head football coach has given the team's trainer the final word on safety in the heat the players have been handling for weeks now. With temperatures routinely in the high 90s on the field, and a heat index well above 100 during the late afternoon practice, it's a potentially dangerous situation.
Two Georgia football players have died this summer in heat-related incidents.
"It's been challenging. For us as coaches, we have to walk a fine line," said head football coach Jason Dukes. "The good thing is we have a very confident training staff that helps me and makes it easy for me."
The final decision on heat and practice isn't even up to the coaches.
"Any time it comes down to heat and safety, I've instructed them [trainers] to take it completely out of my hands. They make the final call on that," Dukes said.
He said that's the smartest thing a coach can do because coaches have so many things they are trying to manage.
"Sometimes in the heat of things, no pun intended, we're not paying attention to those things. Lindsey Law who is our trainer, she keeps an eye on the heat for us, what the heat index is, what level we are at," he said. "And we manage it to the point, where, OK, if we need to take the pads off, we need to take helmets off, we need to cancel practice, she has the last word on that. And that's how we manage it."
Law is a certified athletic trainer with the Children's Healthcare of Atlanta Sports Medicine Program.
What helps is having practice at 6 a.m. during the two-a-days' period. That allows the team to get a lot of work done in full pads before the heat of the day. Then they come back at 4 p.m. for an abbreviated special teams practice, with a concentration not only on special teams, but also error correction on what didn't go right in the previous practice.
"You want to slow it down, do almost a walk through to solve or fix any of the problems that we have. So what that does is it allows us to be out in the heat during our normal practice time because once school starts that's when we are going to be practicing, at 4 o'clock," Dukes said.
Going at less than full speed also helps prevent heat injuries, he said.
"I honestly believe you do your kids a disservice by not properly acclimating them to the heat that they will be experiencing during normal practicing time. So we try to expose them to the heat, but also be smart about what we are doing," Dukes said.