By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
While this summer may have seemed to arrive late in many parts of Michigan, the warm and sunny weather over these last few weeks has provided another reminder that student-athletes must prepare for training in hot weather that traditionally accompanies the beginning of August as MHSAA member schools prepare to begin fall sports practices this month.
Each year, the MHSAA provides information to its member schools to help them prepare for hot weather practice and game conditions during the late summer and early fall. Practices for cross country, football, Lower Peninsula girls golf, boys soccer and Lower Peninsula boys and Upper Peninsula girls tennis can begin August 12, with volleyball and Lower Peninsula girls swimming & diving able to start August. 14.
The “Health & Safety” page of the MHSAA Website has a number of links to various publications and information including guidelines for acclimatization from the National Athletic Trainers’ Association and recommendations on proper hydration from the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS). The preseason publication Heat Ways also is available for download and includes valuable information on heat management in addition to requirements and resources regarding head injuries and sudden cardiac arrest.
The first days of formal practices in hot weather should be more for heat acclimatization than the conditioning of athletes, and practices in such conditions need planning to become longer and more strenuous over a gradual progression of time. Schools also must consider moving practices to different locations or different times of day, or change practice plans to include different activities depending on the conditions. Furthermore, football practice rules allow for only helmets to be worn during the first two days, only shoulder pads to be added on the third and fourth days, and full pads to not be worn until the fifth day of team practice.
The MHSAA advises student-athletes to make sure to hydrate all day long – beginning before practice, continuing during and also after practice is done. Water and properly-formulated sports drinks are the best choices for hydration, while energy drinks, high-carbohydrate fruit juices (greater than eight percent carb content), carbonated and caffeinated beverages are among those that should be avoided.
A number of member schools follow the MHSAA’s Model Policy for Managing Heat & Humidity, which while not mandated for member schools was adopted as a rule for MHSAA postseason competition in 2013. 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. (When the temperature is below 80 degrees, there is no combination of heat and humidity that will result in a need to curtail activity.) The model heat & humidity policy is outlined in a number of places on the MHSAA Website, including as part of Heat Ways.