Dr. Mathews also urges free use of water by players when they are thirsty. "It's an old wives' tale that athletes shouldn't be allowed to drink water while working out," he says. "Failure to replenish the water and salt lost while exercising is a basic cause of heat exhaustion and heatstroke. Players should be given water whenever they want and be allowed to drink as much as they want, provided they continue to take salt along with it."
Additional recommendations come from OSU Team Physician Dr. Robert J. Murphy: during the early part of the season players should wear a short-sleeved jersey and no stockings; in hot weather players should change into dry T shirt halfway through practice or a game; the weight of each player should be checked before and after practice to determine if water loss is excessive; vitamin C (found notably in oranges, lemons and tomatoes) should be taken regularly, since it seems to be useful in preventing heatstroke. Dr. Murphy also recommends that if the temperature goes to between 80� and 90�, with the humidity over 70%, players should be given a 10-minute rest period every hour and that the T shirt should be changed when soaked. When the temperature reaches between 90� and 100� and humidity is at 70%, practice should be postponed or sharply curtailed.
The Oklahoma program
Though the causative factors in heatstroke are just now being recognized, it has long been known that physiological changes brought about by overheating reduce any player's efficiency, even if they do not cause him physical injury. One of the most elaborate acclimatization programs to combat these ill effects is that of the University of Oklahoma, under the direction of Coach Bud Wilkinson and Trainer Ken Rawlinson. In August, three weeks before the start of football practice, a supply of salt tablets and ascorbic acid is sent to players to build up their salt levels at home. (Perspiration contains a slight amount of ascorbic acid—vitamin C—as well as salt.) They are also sent Wilkinson's recommendations on how to control their weight, along with conditioning and exercise drills. When practice starts, the U.S. Weather Bureau is called every night to determine the estimated temperature and relative humidity for the following morning. If there is afternoon as well as morning practice, the bureau is phoned again at 11 a.m. to determine the afternoon's weather. The length and intensity of practice sessions are determined by the figures reported.
Before and after each practice, players are given salt and ascorbic acid tablets. After half an hour of practice, players are given a seven-ounce cup of saline solution—about one tablespoon of salt to a gallon of water. At the end of the second half hour, players are given a 10-minute rest and seven-ounce cup of soft drink. At the end of the third half hour they receive another cup of saline solution. When the two-hour session is over, players are encouraged to drink as much saline solution, flavored with lemon, as they wish. They may also have one bottle of soft drink.
When Oklahoma was about to play USC last September 28 in what was expected to be a scorching temperature, the salt intake of Oklahoma players was increased. At the Saturday pregame meal, each player was told to take several tablets, and salt was available in the dressing room before and after the game. USC authorities, also worried about the heat, hospitably furnished both benches with bamboo shades, which were sprinkled with water before the game and during the half. A five-gallon can filled with saline solution stood by the Oklahoma bench. It was emptied five times during the course of the game. At half time Oklahoma players were served a soft drink. During time-outs, Oklahoma players on the field washed out their mouths with a refreshing peppermint solution that was squirted from a pressure can. Player substitutions on both teams were frequent, to prevent anyone from getting overtired, and players were watched closely by the coaches for any sign of heat exhaustion or heatstroke. The referee was instructed to take additional official time-outs if any player on either team looked woozy.
USC combatted the heat in the days before the game by changing its practice hours from afternoons to the evening and practicing only half as long as usual. Players were given extra salt tablets, and even during practice substitutions were frequent. The team's diet leaned heavily on salads and light foods.
All these preparations and precautions paid off. With the temperature 105� in the shade and a murderous 120� on the field, no player on either team showed a single symptom of heat exhaustion or heatstroke.
With their work nearing its conclusion, one member of Dr. Mathews' team recently commented, "A kid goes out to die for dear old Siwash, and he winds up doing just that." Oklahoma and USC—and Dr. Mathews' team of researchers—have shown that so far as heatstroke is concerned, dying for dear old Siwash can be purely figurative from now on.