Back to School Heat Stress 101

Back to School


Parents love it. Students hate it. Teachers could use more hours in the day!

During the first few weeks of school, teachers struggle to get students to focus, administrators focus on yearly initiatives, and athletic staff continues their summer work in making sure student athletes have a fun and successful season.

New injuries, nagging aches, and academic probation are all bumps in the road for athletic departments. One often overlooked problem is heat stress. While heat stress sounds like a concern mainly for the summertime, this simply is not the case. Surprisingly sweltering early fall conditions can cause heat-related illnesses in student athletes during the beginning of the school year.

Heat Stress 101 

Heat stress in student athletes is not a new topic. The first thing you need to know is that heat stress is serious. When proper measures are not taken during extreme heat stress, it may result in catastrophic results.

Heat stress can cause heat-related illnesses. There are a few signs that stress due to high heat is doing your student athletes harm. Less serious symptoms include muscle cramps and dehydration. Severe symptoms include confusion, disorientation, hyperventilation, and even loss of consciousness.

One of the most serious conditions is exertional heat stroke (EHS). While most people think EHS and other heat-related illnesses only affect students in the summer months, that is simply not true.

Even if the temperature seems safe, let’s say 82 degrees on a warm autumn afternoon, there are about a dozen other factors that play into how a human body’s temperature reacts. For example, lack of cloud coverage and a high humidity could make it dangerously hot for student athletes.

There were a few heat-related tragedies throughout the United States over the summer and unforunately, there will most likely be more in the fall.

Heat Stress Management

To avoid a tragedy at your school, your athletic department should turn towards heat stress management. By using heat stress management, coaches and sports medicine teams can maximize safety and performance during outdoor exercise in the heat.

You should, first of all, have a designated person to take the temperature every time outdoor exercise takes places. While any adult on staff can handle this responsibility, it’s best to use someone who is going to be present at every warm-weather practice. It also is necessary for this person to understand how a handheld temperature device works and measure often. This creates accountability.

It’s also key to understand that different field conditions can influence the temperature. For example, temperatures on artificial turf fields tend to be at least 50 degrees hotter than natural grass fields. All in all, the best way to figure out how much stress heat exerts on a body is by monitoring Wet Bulb Globe Temperature (WBGT).

Free Webinar: Proactive Heat Stress Prevention for Athletics



Join us for a free webinar to learn more about heat stress prevention for your athletic department.


This session, led by Yuri Hosokawa of the Korey Stringer Institue and moderated by Earth Networks, will discuss:

  • The physiology during exercise in the heat
  • Common risk factors for exertional heat illness
  • the KSI’s work on developing region-specific heat activity modification guidelines


Sign up

Join us for a discussion and learn more about how you can be proactive at your university or school. Remember, the early fall can still see hazardously high temperatures. Don’t make your students sweat it out in dangerous conditions.