The Friday Night Lights are slowly coming on, as high school football practice for some schools, mainly smaller schools which didn't have spring workouts, begins this week. At larger schools, formal football practice begins next week.
Dr. Brad Tolin, a sports medicine expert at the San Antonio Orthopaedic Group, says the keys to surviving the always rough first few days of football practice are acclimation...and plenty of water.
"Because of the muscle soreness, a combination of the heat, the combination of the sweating, acclimation and drinking plenty of water and sports drinks will be a big difference in the way the kids respond," he said.
Football coaches all have plenty of water available for the players as they begin these early season drills, which, under new UIL rules, will include gradual conditioning and no contact.
"Most of it is that first week or so, getting acclimated to that environment that you're practicing in, having water available throughout the day," Dr. Tolin said.
He praised the UIL for new rules which not only allow teenagers to acclimate more gradually to the rigors and the heat, but also can save lives. He says historically, four or five kids nationwide have died during early season football practice, and he sees the new rules as helping alleviate that.
While helmets may be worn on the first days of football practice, no contact is allowed until at least the fourth day of practice. New rules also drastically limit the time honored high school football tradition of 'two a day' practices, No practice can be longer than three hours, and on days when more than one practice is scheduled, there must be at least a two hour break between them.
There are also new rules in place to protect students from concussions.
Dr. Tolin says while the rules are beneficial, he says, ironically, the most opposition to the new rules came from fathers who had two a days daily in the hot sun back in the seventies and eighties, and wonder why their kids aren't as 'tough' as they are.
"There is a big hurdle to overcome and dealing with these kinds of changes, but overall, these new rules should be very beneficial long term," he said.