In Wake of Football Player's Death, a Reminder to Stay Safe

Updated: 07/23/2014 7:01 PM
Created: 07/23/2014 7:00 PM
By: Jenna Lohse

(ABC 6 News) -- Questions still surround the sudden death of a Winona State football player. Those close to Shawn Afryl's family say he died from cardiac arrest. However, it’s unclear what may have led to that.

We do know conditions at the time were very hot and humid and it raises concerns as our high school teams hit the field. We spoke with a coach and health expert who say safety needs to come first.

"We always hold a camp at the end of July to get them kind of excited about the season coming up, go over some new things that we have and get them to sweat a little,” said Byron Head Football Coach, John Austinson. He says the main concern is getting the players acclimated to the heat and that takes some easing into.

"On Monday was no pads, just a little bit of running. Tuesday we had pads with running, today was contact on our 3rd day, then tomorrow we won't have any pads,” said Austinson. Without knowing the pre-existing conditions of each player, "You’re always watching, you’re always looking for heat,” he said.

When the heat hits you it takes, "A matter of minutes and they'll start feeling not well and things go very quickly,” said Jacob Hesse, Program Manager with Olmsted Medical Center Sports Medicine and Athletic Performance. Hesse says common heat related symptoms can be cramps, fatigue and lack of focus.

"It's kind of a culture that's been built around sports is you don't complain about if you’re tired or if you a little dizzy or out of breath things like that,” said Hesse.

Many times, Hesse says players push their body to hard, "Often times they know that something is not right but they just don't say anything,” he said. So, it's important for coaches to make sure their players know it's ok to speak up when they don't feel right.

"If you miss a day of practice here and there because of heat, to keep the kids safe, it's not really going to hurt you in the long run and as coaches you got to make sure you remind yourself of that,” said Austinson.

Again, the cause of death of Winona State player Shawn Afryl has not been linked to anything heat related. ABC 6 News spoke with a Winona coach yesterday who says they kept a close on the heat index that day and took all the necessary precautions.

Photo: ABC 6 News
Photo: ABC 6 News