As high school football teams across the country prepare for the upcoming season, they’re having to contend with a preseason opponent: Mother Nature.
USA Today High School Sports reports that schools around the country are modifying their summer practice schedules or relocating indoors as temperatures in parts of the country soar — sometimes in excess of 100 degrees.
Among the changes schools have undertaken in order to deal with the heat are shifting schedules to practice outside of peak temperatures, increasing access to cold tubs, monitoring player hydration and moving practices to other campus facilities near shade or indoors.
USA Today noted changes in Alabama, Florida, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Texas — though it’s likely such changes have been undertaken in other states, as well.
As heat stroke expert Dr. Douglas Casa of the Korey Stringer Institute discussed on the first episode of The Athletic Business Podcast, these sorts of modifications are important considerations to avoiding heat illness and heat stroke in student-athletes.
“There’s four huge items for preventing heat stroke,” Casa said in our interview. “One is fitness is the most important, getting your athletes fit first before you start giving them a lot of heat stress because fitness is very protective in the heat. Second is heat acclimatization, so specifically going through a week or two of gradually increasing intensity and duration of exercise in the heat so your body can go through the physiological changes. Third is making modifications based on the environmental conditions, so measuring the wet bulb globe temperature or WBGT, and making modifications to work-to-rest ratios based upon those measures. And fourth is hydration, making sure that there is free access to fluids during activity, not just at breaks, not ever using hydration as punishment during certain workouts.”
Forecasts in much of the south don’t show signs of lower temperatures, and warmer-than-usual temperatures are expected throughout the rest of the month of August in most of the U.S.
Casa notes that even in cooler climates, it’s important to give student-athletes the time to adjust to the heat.
“On more brutal days, no matter where you live, brutal for Maine whatever that is, brutal for Louisiana whatever that is, you need to make modifications to the work-to-rest ratio so that you’re protecting your people,” Casa says.
You can check out our full conversation with Dr. Casa on the first episode of The Athletic Business Podcast Below.