Student athletes have the unfortunate combination of pressure to win & pressure to please. And while coaches are supposed to get the most out of their players, some are ill-equipped to fully understand the effects of severe heat, like the heat-waves we’ve seen this summer, on their athletes. Athletes too, seem uninformed about the warning signs of heatstroke, dehydration and other heat related illnesses.
As football season starts, more teams are working out in the morning to beat the heat, but it appears it’s not enough. Last week alone, 3 student athletes & a coach died from heat related causes on the practice field. At least a dozen more were treated for dehydration. Runners are especially susceptible; they usually run outdoors in sweltering temperatures.
Currently, there are no nationwide rules that protect students or coaches from hot weather. Most school districts have guidelines, but many aren’t enforced.
Excerpt from CNN.com
Jason West, communications director for the Missouri State High School Activities Association, said its member schools have to adopt some form of policy for dealing with hot weather. Missouri’s state association advises coaches and marching band directors to take precautions when the heat index tops 95, and cut off activities when that measure hits 105, West said.
“If the heat index is over 105, then you stop, reschedule the practice for a later day or later in the day,” he said. “If you can afford to do it at night, under lights, that would be even better, but we know some smaller districts can’t.”
Among the recommendations the association makes are frequent water breaks, and a trip to the scales at the beginning and end of each session. If a player’s weight drops 3% or more, it’s considered a sign of dehydration; losses of 5% are seen as an indicator of heat-related illness.
“That’s going to be a strong signal,” West said.
But Casa says there are no rules for coaches, and the guidelines issued by state athletic associations aren’t binding.
“It’s not like the NCAA, where they mandate rules and the colleges have to follow them,” he said. “The high school association can make some recommendations, but they don’t have any power or teeth to have those policies actually implemented.”
Franklin Stephens, the head coach at Tucker High School in suburban Atlanta, said coaches have to watch out for players who try to keep going to make an impression, despite the heat.
“I think some of them do it, but as a coach you can see it,” he said.
Casa said a task force made up of professionals from the top medical organizations in the country came together three years ago and produced a set of guidelines similar to those of the NCAA. The NCAA guidelines have been in place for eight years, and there’s been only one heat-related death on a college football field since then.