Aug 24, 2018
Ready for the Heat
Brad Nelson

As the fall sports practice season ramps up for high school and college athletics, it is imperative for coaches to understand the detrimental effects heat can have on their athletes. In extreme heat and high humidity, evaporation is slowed forcing the body to work harder to maintain its normal temperature, which can potentially have fatal consequences. Heat kills around 97 people in the U.S. each year, more than any other weather fatality, and DTN meteorologists are projecting a generally warmer fall for most of the United States.

It is extremely important that coaches and athletic staff know the risks of heat and the precautions to take to prevent heat-related illnesses for their athletes. Professional sport organizations, as well as the NCAA and NATA, recommend safety protocols based on Wet Bulb Globe Temperature thresholds. Coaches can use this composite temperature indicator to determine safe lengths for practices, types of drills and frequency of rest breaks.

DTN suggests several best practices for diminishing the risk of heat including:

  • Adopt a heat safety policy that is region specific. The time of year and how acclimated athletes are to the climate should be taken into consideration.
  • Require someone on the coaching staff or school administration to be responsible for monitoring weather conditions and determining the level of impact heat will have on practices and competitions.
  • Schedule practices for early morning (6-9 a.m.) or at night (6-9 p.m.) when temperatures are generally lower. Practice duration should not exceed three hours.
  • Hydrate regularly. As heat and humidity increases, rest and water breaks should be more frequent.
  • Ease into full equipment and workout intensity during the month of August, when the risk of heat injuries is higher.
  • Use Wet Bulb Globe Temperature forecasts, which accounts for temperature, humidity, wind speed and solar radiation to deliver a more reliable measure of the weather’s impact on the body than heat index.

Brad Nelson is on-site event meteorologist for DTN Weather.

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