OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — On Aug. 10, Omaha South football player Drake Geiger collapsed 20 minutes into practice and later died at an area hospital. Following his family’s loss, members set up an online petition, calling for the Nebraska School Activities Association (NSAA) to change guidelines for practicing in high temperatures.
The petition, set up by Drake’s sister Aaren Geiger reads:
Heat illness during practice or competition is a leading cause of death and disability among U.S. high school athletes. From 1995-2020, 51 high school football players in the United States died from heat stroke during football-related activity, according to the University of North Carolina’s National Center for Catastrophic Sport Injury Research. There were three deaths attributed to heat stroke in 2020. These numbers are too high. According to the Nebraska School Activity Association (NSAA) Heat Activity Guidelines; the heat index has to be a stunning 125 degrees to suspend practice.
Furthermore, at least 27% of high school football fields have turf. Synthetic turf is 40-70 degrees hotter than surrounding air temperatures on warm sunny days. On clear warm days, synthetic turf fields get superheated to temperatures from 120-180 degrees. Playing on synthetic turf can melt shoes, blister hands and feet, and induce dehydration and heatstroke.
On August 10th 2021 Drake Geiger was practicing football at Collin Stadium for South High School in Omaha, Nebraska when he collapsed and later died of heatstroke. The temperature was 91 degrees and humidity of 53% making the heat index 105 degrees. Factoring in the temperature of the turf; the temperature was a broiling 145-175 degrees in the stadium.
We are calling on the NSAA to update their Heat Activity Guidelines. 125 degrees is unacceptable. The temperature of the turf needs to be factored into the guidelines. Cool down stations and accessible water close by need to be mandatory. Why are our children practicing at the hottest part of the day in the hottest part of the year in Nebraska? How many more deaths need to take place before action is taken? In Drake's name and all the innocent children lost before him, we are demanding action from the NSAA.
According to a Heat Index Chart fact sheet on the NSAA’s website, practicing during heat index temperatures of 125 degrees Fahrenheit or higher carries a high risk of heatstroke and the NSAA recommends “NO PRACTICE!”
On the day Drake died, our weather team said that the peak heat index was 106 with a high temperature of 92.