Sports

AN OUNCE OF PREVENTION

In an average day of NFL training camp, featuring two practices in temperatures pushing three digits, players can sweat off between 20 and 30 pounds. A loss of 10 pounds is enough to kill a 300-pound lineman. Despite the direct connection between fluid loss and heatstroke, brought to the forefront by the death of Korey Stringer, the NFL does not require teams to weigh their players before and after practices.

The flood of stories spawned by the mammoth Stringer's collapse at the Minnesota Vikings' training camp has produced only a trickle of detail about the crucial lack of a league-wide weigh-in program to monitor unusual losses and give staffs clues about which players are heading for trouble.

And the pros aren't setting a very good example.

"I personally know hundreds of colleges and thousands of high schools that do not weigh players," said Doug Casa, director of athletic training education at the University of Connecticut and the coauthor of the National Athletic Trainers' Association's position statement on fluid replacement. "Heatstroke is completely preventable. . . . Players should not be dying of it."

NFL officials refused to tell the Voice which of their teams have strict weigh-in programs that include daily measurements. But Casa estimated that just over half of the NFL teams have them. The trainers' association touts the benefits of strict weigh-in programs no less than four times in its position statement, which was issued last year. Weigh-ins allow teams to measure the amount of fluids lost by their players and give guidelines for holding dehydrated players out of practice. When asked why some teams don't weigh their players before and after each practice, Casa added, "I think it's a mistake that they're making. They're not putting in the effort. In my professional opinion, I think all NFL teams should have programs of weigh-ins."

Stringer's death marked the first heatstroke casualty the NFL has had to deal with, but instead of addressing its leave-everything-to-the-teams training policy, the league has run away from talking about the issue.

The dangers of fluid loss reach far beyond the NFL. During the past six years, 18 high school and college football players have died of heatstroke.


NY TO KEISLER: GOODBYE. COLUMBUS.

Now that Randy Keisler's been replaced by Sterling Hitchcock and exiled to Columbus, we miss the Yankees' high-strung rookie pitcher. Gone are the days when we'd see him nibbling nervously on his glove, or hiding his face in his cap, as Joe Torre trotted out to relieve him. Alas, Keisler's anxious glances toward the dugout, alarming facial contortions, and habit of pacing between pitches while peeking over his shoulder (as if "strolling down a dark alley past midnight," carped the Times) failed to endear him to his teammates. Even little Ted Lilly, with his sleepy, prairie-dog demeanor, inspires more confidence (unless you're Scott Spiezio).

Rewind to April: After two shaky starts, which included a runner stealing home, Keisler was demoted to the minors. Lashing out at Torre, he complained that Triple-A was like high school: "It's aggravating. I don't know why I came up here anyway." (Club execs then ordered him to apologize.)

When they brought him back in June, he went all Mariah Carey under pressure, crumbling on the mound, gainsaying Torre, sticking chewed-up gum on Lilly's cap. Last week, the dejected lefty ("I thought I was doing good!") got the boot again. Of course, with Boston on their heels, the Yanks don't have time to cosset Keisler, but how else do they expect to breed future aces? Surely they can't afford to keep throwing away young starters and buying Mike Mussinas every year. Oh, wait—they can.


DONNIE VS. DARRYL? NO CONTEST

Kirby Puckett's recent induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame rekindled one of the silliest ongoing campaigns on New York sports radio: Don Mattingly for Cooperstown. It's clear that most of the callers have something in common with many Hall of Fame voters: They don't own a copy of Total Baseball. So as a public service, we analyze Mattingly's stats, along with an instructive comparison with another lefty slugger who also had half a Hall of Fame career: Darryl Strawberry.

Donnie Ballgame against Derelict Darryl? Blasphemy! Yes, Don's career batting average is almost 50 points higher. But their on-base percentage is virtually identical, Darryl's slugging percentage is 30 points higher, Darryl's got 113 more homers, and he drove in and scored more runs per season.

And no one, not even any of the bleeding-heart liberal commie pinkos at the Voice sports section, is suggesting that Darryl belongs in Cooperstown. At least before the Alzheimers, er, Old Timers Committee anoints Mattingly.


Contributors: Jonathan Kalmuss-Katz, J. Yeh, Allen St. John
Sports Editor: Ward Harkavy

 
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