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Preventing H1N1 Risk To Football Players


By David Brown
Published: October 1, 2009, 10:41 PM

Locker rooms can be a dangerous place when it comes to the spread of disease, especially now with concerns over H1N1. We talked with a local physician to see what teams in KELOLAND can do to help contain the spread of the virus.

In the midst of competition, H1N1 is just about the last thing on a high school football player's mind, even though they're some of the most susceptible people to the virus.

"People under the age of 24 are the highest risk population," said Dr. Dan Heinemann with Sanford Health. "So teenagers fall in the highest risk group we have in this country. The younger you are, the more vulnerable you are to this disease."

Dr. Heinemann says football players in particular are at risk due to their close proximity to each other in locker rooms and their sharing of items such as water bottles.

"The biggest danger for a football player would be if another football player has got a cough," Dr. Heinemann said. "And spreading the droplets will spread anywhere from three to six feet. So, anytime a football player or any athlete for that matter is around someone with a significant cough, they are at risk for contracting viruses, especially H1N1."

Despite the risk factors, Dr. Heinemann says there are simple, common-sense approaches to combating H1N1 for football players.

"I would buy a few more water bottles to spread around, let each one of the players have their own," Dr. Heinemann said. "Or invest in some kind of system that doesn't require bottles to be passed around."
As for whether players are in danger of contracting the virus by simply playing, Dr. Heinemann says it's a non-issue.

"It's about getting contact with bodily fluids, not necessarily persperation or sweat," Dr. Heinemann said. "So rubbing up against another athlete in the locker room is not going to give you something. As long as a lineman doesn't cough directly in your face, you're probably going to be okay."

And that means players only have to worry about blocking their man, and not the disease.
Dr. Heinemann adds that high school coaches should immediately restrict players from practice if they're showing or complaining about any flu-like symptoms.

© 2009 KELOLAND TV. All Rights Reserved.