4 Questions That Help Prevent Heat Stress in Student Athletes

  • Jul 25, 2017

Student Athletes and Heat Stress

It’s almost that time of year when student athletes prepare for the fall sports season. The last month of summer is a very important time for high school athletic teams. This pre-season period requires intense physical training to prepare athletes for a competitive season.

While injuries are a part of any sport, coaches and players alike try to avoid them as best as they can. While some issues like sprains and breaks are hard to avoid there is one type of injury that is easy to avoid: Heat-related illnesses.

It can be hard for both coaches and players to know the difference between the physical strain of hard work compared to unhealthy levels of heat stress.

4 Questions That Help Prevent Heat Stress in Student Athletes

1. Who is in charge of taking the temperature?

In order to prevent heat-related illnesses in your student athletes, you must take the temperature. The real question is, who is in charge of this? Is it the athletic director? The head coach? An assistant coach?

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 and who knows how to use a handheld temperature device.

By designating a specific person to handle this task, you create a sense of importance and consistency around the subject.

2. How often do you measure the temperature? 

Temperatures vary throughout the day. Typically, in the morning and later evening temperatures are much cooler than in the middle of the day. So if you have a practice start in the late morning, the temperature difference between the start of practice and the end of practice is very different.

While mornings and evenings are typically cooler, that isn’t always the case. Many times, especially in the summer, storms and other weather patterns can alter temperatures.

The only way to protect student athletes from high temperatures is to continuously monitor conditions throughout practice or the game. We recommend measuring at least every half an hour.

3. What type of field are you playing on?

The next important question that can keep students athletes safe is: What type of field are you playing on?

This question is important for one main reason: Artificial turf fields are hotter than traditional grass fields. In fact, artificial fields cannot be played on all the time due to temperature build-up on warm, sunny days. That is because temperatures on turf tend to be at least 50 degrees higher than natural grass.

Artificial #turf fields can reach #temperatures up to 50 degrees higher than grass Click To Tweet

When conditions are sunny with minimal cloud cover and low humidity, there is a high chance of these surfaces reaching extremely dangerous temperatures.

4. Are you measuring Wet Bulb Globe Temperature?

Whether you are playing on a natural grass field or an artificial turf field, measuring the temperature simply isn’t enough to get an accurate picture of the amount of heat stress exerted on a student athlete’s body.

While measuring the heat index is better than just the temperature, it’s not the best method for ensuring safety.

Wet Bulb Globe Temperature (WBGT) is the most comprehensive way to measure the level of heat exertion the weather places on people outdoors. That is because WBGT takes into account:

  • Temperature
  • Humidity
  • Wind speed
  • Sun angle
  • Solar radiation
  • Cloud cover

 

Why It Matters

 

Student athletes worry about the weather, and it’s no mystery why. Each year, tragedies occur all over the world where athletes fall victim to Mother Nature’s most dangerous conditions. This year alone, three people in the US have passed away due to heat-related illnesses and dozens more injured.

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