In just one week the high school sports season will be in full swing. It is a time of great excitement and anticipation for all who are involved. Everyone dreams of winning a state championship as a team and as an individual.
I preach about the topic of heat acclimatization and heat-related illness at this time every year. I feel passionate about it as a retired coach. The National Federation of State High School Association and the Missouri State High School Activities Association have established rules and suggested mandates designed to keep athletes safe during the very hot summer months.
Before I go any further I would encourage everyone to go to MSHSAA website (www.mshsaa.org) to become familiarized with heat acclimatization, heat illness and proper hydration techniques. The website also contains very good information about concussions. It will be well worth your time.
Books have been written about hydration and heat strokes, but I will concentrate on the MSHSAA heat acclimation and heat illness prevention information. The National Center of Catastrophic Sports Injury Research reports that 35 high school football players died of EHS (exertional heat stroke) between 1995 and 2010. EHS is also responsible for thousands of emergency room visits and hospitalizations yearly throughout the nation.
Clearly these statistics demonstrate that heat affects more than just football players. This information is important for participants in softball, cross country, soccer, marching band, tennis and, yes, even golf. In fact, heat acclimatization can affect anyone. We all need to be prepared at any level. The six heat acclimation and safety priorities listed by MSHSAA are as follows:
1. Recognize that EHS is the leading preventable cause of death among high school athletes.
2. Know the importance of a formal preseason heat acclimatization plan.
3. Know the importance of having and implementing a specific hydration plan for keeping your athletes well-hydrated, and encouraging and providing ample opportunities for regular fluid replacement.
4. Know the importance of appropriately modifying activities in relation to the environment heat stress and contributing individual risk factors (e.g., illness, obesity) to keep your athletes safe and performing well.
5. Know the importance for all members of the coaching staff to closely monitor all athletes during practice and training in the heat, and recognize the signs and symptoms of developing heat illnesses.
6. Know the importance of, and resources for, establishing an emergency plan and promptly implementing it in case of suspected EHS or other medical emergency.
The above information is just a sample of the wealth of information that you can find in order to make athletes safer in the summer heat. The Youth Football Coaches Clinic given for little league programs has encouraged the use of the MSHSAA guidelines for young athletes, as well. It is never too early to recognize and understand the dangers presented by heat. Other little league organizations should consider the same type of compliance.
The 16-day MSHSAA acclimatization period is one of the best implementations of the state association in the past few years. I do not have enough time or space in this article to go over all the heat related information, but two basic recommendations of MSHSAA should be followed by everyone involved in sports in the late summer and early fall months:
1. If the heat index is between 95 and 105 degrees, practices and game conditions should be altered.
2. If the heat index is over 105 degrees, a practice or contest should be postponed or rescheduled.
My only real regret during my coaching career was that we as coaches lacked an understanding of heat issues. We showed our ignorance in believing that not getting water made you “tougher.” Time has a way of teaching lessons and safety is one of the biggest to learn.
• Last Friday night at the Royals game, Billy Butler brought the fans to their feet with his game-winning two-run homer to defeat the Cleveland Indians. I have been Billy’s biggest critic, but I was ecstatic when he finally squared one up. It would sure make a difference if he could repeat that at least 25 times a year.
• I hope the Chiefs offensive line grows up quick. I am getting a little worried that this might be a problem area. I liked the way the Chiefs handled the Jamaal Charles signing. Well DONE!
• My quote of the week comes from NBA Hall of Fame coach and player Bill Sharman: “There are no big secrets. A player who is in the best shape possible is in a position to function and reach maximum efficiency.”
Tim Crone, a William Chrisman High School graduate, is a former activities director and coach for Blue Springs High School and is a host of a weekly radio show, “Off the Wall with Tim Crone,” on KCWJ (1030 AM) 5-6 p.m. every Thursday. He writes a weekly column for The Examiner. Reach him at email@example.com