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Patton making sure Saints tackle the heat

this is a discussion within the Saints Community Forum; Patton making sure Saints tackle the heat Sunday, August 07, 2005 Peter Finney For an athletic trainer adapting to new surroundings, Scottie Patton will never forget the sight that greeted him during his first season with the Saints. It happened ...

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Old 08-08-2005, 08:12 AM   #1
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Patton making sure Saints tackle the heat

Patton making sure Saints tackle the heat
Sunday, August 07, 2005
Peter Finney
For an athletic trainer adapting to new surroundings, Scottie Patton will never forget the sight that greeted him during his first season with the Saints. It happened to be six years ago, after the Saints' training camp had been moved from La Crosse, Wis., to the campus of Nicholls State in Thibodaux.

"First time I ever saw an alligator on a football field," Patton said.

And that's not all.

"First time I ever saw the heat index hit 120 degrees."

Patton has yet to spot a gator on the field at Airline Drive, the team's training camp since 2003. But the heat index still is with us.

"It was 113 the other day, but not a steady 113," said Patton, who's hoping he'll never see the day he'll be watching practice with the humidity-induced index dancing into the 120s.

A native of Gastonia, N.C., Patton served his apprenticeship at the University of South Carolina and Appalachian State before moving to assistant jobs in the NFL, first with the 49ers, then with the Eagles.

"The 49ers trained near Sacramento, in desert country, where you had a dry heat, different from what you have here," he said. "But wherever you are this time of year, you have to be on guard. And your number one enemy always comes down to one thing: dehydration."

When a body is losing moisture, symptoms run the gamut -- cramps, weakness, fatigue, dizziness, loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting.

"Most of all," said Patton, "our approach has to be proactive. Catch any warning signs in the early stages. Education has helped on the athletic front, one reason being the players have become more aware. They realize they're not only dealing with their jobs, but with their lives."

When it comes to stages, the steps go from heat cramps to heat exhaustion to heat stroke.

Cramps usually can be eased by an infusion of fluids. Heat exhaustion requires immediate attention. Signs normally involve profuse sweating, headaches, irritability and sometimes unconsciousness. Heat stroke is a medical emergency, characterized by a body temperature of 104 degrees or higher, sometimes accompanied by disorientation or delirium.

It has become mandatory for players to weigh in before and after every practice.

"It's mandatory because we can monitor the loss of water weight," Patton said. "It's tied into the weight of the player. If water-weight loss exceeds certain levels, it's a warning sign. And immediate steps are taken. We've always had IV technicians."

Ordinarily, in the battle against dehydration, every lost pound of water weight is replenished by 20 ounces of fluids.

Obviously, Patton has a strong ally in Jim Haslett.

"Coach Haslett is great to work with," Patton said. "He's good with asking questions, and he knows the value of water breaks. One of the best allies we have when it comes to heat-induced problems are the players themselves.

". . . The trainers can't see everything. Many times a player will come up and say, 'keep an eye on so-and-so.' When it comes to heat, they're looking out for one another."

And that's only part of the story.

"Today," Patton said, "players are coming to camp in far better shape than they used to. Players would report with the idea they could work themselves into shape. They'd work out in long sleeves, sometimes in plastic shirts, aimed at working up a sweat and losing weight. Not anymore. Long sleeves and plastic is out. You want players to sweat in short sleeves, to lose weight in a normal way."

In training camp, every player has his own gallon jug of water available at all times.

"We've got warning signs posted all over the locker room, even at the urinals," Patton said. "Don't laugh. Shades of a player's urine can tell you something about dehydration. You have eight levels, from clear, which is good, all the way down to dark, which is a warning sign."

So for the gladiators, the war goes on against the heat index.

Wearing plastic is out, and eating properly is important. Pretzels, especially the salty ones, are in. So are high-sodium drinks. So drink on.

Makes you wonder: How did that gator, dressed in a thick leather coat, sun-bathing on the practice field at Thibodaux, keep on trucking with the humidity scale at a sauna-like 120?

Patton could only shake his head.

. . . . . . .

Peter Finney can be reached at pfinney@timespicayune.com or (504) 826-3802.

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