With the beginning of a new year for high school sports just a week away, members of the Michigan High School Athletic Association have been preparing to follow a new model policy for hot weather activity, guided by a new publication and a rules meeting emphasis on heat and hydration.
The MHSAA Representative Council adopted a Model Policy for Managing Heat & Humidity earlier this year, a plan many schools have since adopted at the local level. The plan directs schools to begin monitoring the heat index at the activity site once the air temperature reaches 80 degrees, and provides recommendations when the heat index reaches certain points, including ceasing activities when it rises above 104 degrees.
The model policy is outlined in a number of places, including a new publication called Heat Ways, which is available for download from the MHSAA Website. Heat Ways not only provides the model policy, but addresses the need for proper acclimatization in hot weather.
The topic of heat-related injuries receives a lot of attention at this time of year, especially when deaths at the professional, collegiate and interscholastic levels of sport occur, and especially since they are preventable in most cases with the proper precautions. In football, data from the National Federation of State High School Associations shows that 41 high school players have died from heat stroke between 1995 and 2012.
Even before the days of the Internet, the MHSAA held a leadership role in providing resources each Spring to assist schools in their preparation for hot preseason practices. In addition to the information now contained in Heat Ways, the Association is making dealing with heat, hydration and acclimatization the topic for its required preseason rules meetings for coaches and officials. The 15-minute online presentation spends a fair amount of time talking about the need for good hydration in sports, regardless of the activity or time of year.
The Health & Safety Resources page of the MHSAA Website has a set a number of links to different publications and information, and a free online presentation from the National Federation of State High School Associations. Visit MHSAA.com, click on Schools, and then on Health & Safety Resources to find the information.
“We know now more than we ever have about when the risk is high and who is most at risk, and we’re fortunate to be able to communicate that information better than ever before to administrators, coaches, athletes and parents," said John E. “Jack” Roberts, executive director of the MHSAA. “Heat stroke is almost always preventable, and we encourage everyone to avail themselves of the information on our website.”
Roberts added that the first days of formal practices in hot weather should be more for heat acclimatization than the conditioning of athletes, and that practices in such conditions need planning to become longer and more strenuous over a gradual progression of time.
“Then, schools need to be vigilant about providing water during practices, making sure that youngsters are partaking of water and educating their teams about the need for good hydration practices away from the practice and competition fields,” Roberts said.