Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2009 | 9 p.m.
Running sprints after a long, grueling practice is a necessary evil that nearly every high school football player must endure.
The conditioning exercise has become a rite of passage of sorts in testing the mettle of athletes.
But when a common conditioning drill turns deadly, who is to blame?
Although a Kentucky high school football coach was acquitted this week of reckless homicide and wanton endangerment charges in the death of a 15-year-old football player, the case still resonated with local coaches.
The incident in Kentucky occurred on a 94-degree day when sophomore Max Gilpin collapsed during field-length sprints and later died from heat stroke and sepsis.
Practices and games in Las Vegas, though, often occur in 100-plus degree weather. Even this weekend's games are expected to kick off with temperatures in the mid-90s.
"Our climate is brutal, especially with pads on," said Darwin Rost, the head coach at Palo Verde and president of the Southern Nevada Football Coaches Association. "Every coach is well aware of the dangers this heat can pose and although many of us grew up in the age where drinking water was a sign of weakness, we certainly don't adhere to that practice anymore."
Even though each coach has different policies on water breaks during practices, every school is required to have a trainer on site for all practices and games.
During games, referees are required to call a water timeout at least once per quarter.
"We feel like kids are better and more alert when they are refreshed, so why not give them water?" Rost said. "The University of Hawaii was up here practicing last week and the amount of water they gave their players was unbelievable. It just makes more sense to keep everyone properly hydrated."
Water, though, was not the only issue at the forefront of the Kentucky criminal case.
The deceased player was also taking, unbeknownst to the coach, prescription Adderall and weight-gain supplements.
In an effort to make sure coaches are aware of medications, supplements and pre-existing health conditions of their players, the Nevada Interscholastic Athletic Association is pushing an emergency piece of legislation to revamp its sports physical forms.
The NIAA also announced at its fall board meeting last week that it is exploring what type of medical personnel are best qualified to conduct mandatory physicals other than physicians, such as nurse practitioners or chiropractors.
"Liability is a concern in the case of a tragedy, but our main goal is always to ensure the safety of our student athletes," NIAA executive director Eddie Bonine said at the board meeting. "We want to make sure we are doing everything we can to keep the students safe."
Steve Silver can be reached at 948-7822 or [email protected].