Skip to main content

Memo to coaches: Your health is just as important as your players'

Though they never (legally) join their players on the field of play, coaches are still putting out physical exertion during a game. For those who haven't prepared properly, the ups-and-downs, twists-and-turns of a football or basketball game could take a toll on a coach's body.

Working with ABC's "Nightline" and ESPN's "SportScience", Michigan State basketball coach Tom Izzo rigged himself up to a bio-harness and an accelerometer. In plain English, Izzo "had to swallow an ingestible thermometer, a special sensor that tracked core body temperature. These devices measured heart rate, respiratory rate, core body temperature, skin temperature, calories burned and the number of steps taken."

In what turned out to be a perfect night to monitor the hyperactive coach, then-No. 14 Michigan State faced Illinois, 5-10 in Big Ten play at the time. A 28-28 tie at halftime turned into a 53-46 Spartans loss. Izzo took nearly every basket to heart - literally. 

According to data collected courtside from Duke stress expert Dr. Redford Williams, Izzo had a respiratory rate of 14 breaths per minute and a heart rate of 68 beats per minute before the game started. As game time drew closer, his breathing rose to 36 breaths per minute and his heart beat 97 times per minute. At Illinois' first basket, Izzo's heart started beating 120 times per minute, or two beats per second. 

He peaked at 135 beats per minute, a body temperature of more than 100 degrees and his heart working at just 70 percent of its capacity. 

Most football coaches aren't as animated as Izzo (not you, Paul Rhoads and Nick Saban) but the stakes are the same. When your brain treats every game, every series, every snap as live and die, your body had better be prepared to handle it.