Athletic/Band Procedures for Heat

Practice Requirements  

Schools may conduct multiple on-field practice sessions but student-athletes shall not engage in more than five hours of on-field practice activities each day.  

Within one hour of the start of practice, the athletic director will determine the heat index.  

Head coaches for each sport will be responsible for making final decisions related to time and length of practices. 

When the heat index is 95 or above, each practice session will be a maximum of three hours in length and there must be at least three continuous hours of recovery time between the end of the first practice and the start of the next practice that day. During this recovery time, student-athletes may not engage in other physical activities (e.g., weight training, conditioning, 7-on-7). Total on-field practice time combined may not exceed five hours.  

Coaches will hold practices from 7:00-10:00 a.m. and/or 4:00-8:00 p.m. to avoid the peak heat hours. 

Water Breaks 

All practices shall allow for water breaks and general acclimation to hot and/or humid weather.  

If temperature is below 95 degrees, coaches will require that all athletes take a water break every 20 minutes. 

If temperature is above 95 degrees, coaches will require that all athletes take a water break every 15 minutes. 

Warning Signs of Heat Illness: 

DEHYDRATION 

When athletes do not replenish lost fluids, they become dehydrated. 

Signs and Symptoms: 

  • Dry mouth 
  • Thirst 
  • Being irritable or cranky 
  • Headache 
  • Seeming bored or disinterested 
  • Dizziness 
  • Cramps 
  • Excessive fatigue 
  • Not able to run as fast or play as well as usual 

EXERTIONAL HEAT STROKE 

Exertional heat stroke is a severe illness characterized by central nervous system (CNS) abnormalities and potential tissue damage resulting from elevated body temperatures induced by strenuous physical exercise and increased environmental heat stress. 

Signs and Symptoms: 

  • Increase in core body temperature, usually above 104°F/40°C (rectal temperature) when athlete falls ill 
  • Central nervous system dysfunction, such as altered consciousness, seizures, confusion, emotional instability, irrational behavior or decreased mental acuity  
  • Nausea, vomiting or diarrhea 
  • Headache, dizziness or weakness 
  • Hot and wet or dry skin 
  • Increased heart rate, decreased blood pressure or fast breathing 
  • Dehydration 
  • Combativeness 

HEAT EXHAUSTION 

Heat exhaustion is a moderate illness characterized by the inability to sustain adequate cardiac output, resulting from strenuous physical exercise and environmental heat stress. 

Signs and Symptoms: 

  • Athlete finds it hard or impossible to keep playing 
  • Loss of coordination, dizziness or fainting 
  • Dehydration 
  • Profuse sweating or pale skin 
  • Headache, nausea, vomiting or diarrhea 
  • Stomach/intestinal cramps or persistent muscle cramps 

HEAT CRAMPS 

Muscle cramps are not well understood. Heat cramps are often present in athletes who perform strenuous exercise in the heat. Conversely, cramps also occur in the absence of warm or hot conditions, which is common in ice hockey players. 

Signs and Symptoms: 

  • Intense pain (not associated with pulling or straining a muscle) 
  • Persistent muscle contractions that continue during and after exercise 

Prevention of Heat Illness 

Although deaths from heat illness are rare, constant surveillance and education are necessary in order to maintain the safety and health of student-athletes. 

The following practices should be observed in order to prevent any form of heat illness. 

Prior to initial participation on the team, a complete medical history and physical examination should be performed for each student-athlete. 

Prevention of health illness begins with aerobic conditioning, which provides partial acclimation to the heat.  In order to achieve heat acclimation, student-athletes should gradually increase their exposure to hot and/or humid environmental conditions over a period of seven to 10 days.  Hydration should be maintained during training and acclimation. 

Clothing and protective gear can increase heat stress.  Frequent rest periods should be scheduled so that the gear and clothing can be loosened to allow heat loss.  During the acclimation process, it may be advisable to use minimal protective gear and clothing and to practice in T-shirts, shorts, socks and shoes. 

To identify heat stress conditions, regular measurements of environmental conditions are recommended.  Dehydration must be avoided.  Fluid replacement must be readily available.  Student-athletes should be encouraged to drink as much and as frequently as comfort allows.  This includes both before and after practice. 

By recording the body weight of each student-athlete before and after practice(s), progressive loss of body fluids can be detected and overcome. 

Some student-athletes may be more susceptible to heat illness than others, and coaches need to be aware of such situations.  Susceptible individuals include those who have inadequate aerobic fitness, excess body fat, a history of heat illness, poor rehydration habits, and a tendency to push themselves to capacity without proper fluid rehydration. 

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