The Fall Brings Heat for Student-Athletes

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When you think of back to school time, what do you think of? I think of falling leaves, brisk air, and my favorite wardrobe options.

As kids return to school this month and after Labor Day, fall sports have already started. In most of the US, the weather is still summer with high heat indices, and little relief from the conditions.

On average, 3 football players die of heat stroke each year

I recently learned of this lawsuit related to a high school football player who died of heatstroke in 2017 at the age of 16. HBO’s Real Sports is featuring this story, and it’s well worth watching if you have access to the channel (several cable and satellite providers are offering an HBO free trial for August 2019). Regardless, this case highlights the need for coaches to be educated on the signs, symptoms, prevention, and treatment of heat stress.

Coaches in Florida are required to take a computer based training on heat stress, but as safety professionals know, computer based learning needs to be supplemented with testing and other ways for the “student” to demonstrate their understanding and comprehension of the topic.

Here in Minnesota, coaches take similar online training and the Minnesota State High School League (MSHSL) has a landing page on heat stress. The information is pretty limited, and a graph references a 2002 study done at a university. High school athletes are different from college athletes, so a different approach should be employed by those who coach them. According to the Korey Stringer Institute, most states do not have requirements for heat stress prevention and response measures (see graphic below).

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An article about the case in Florida references the Korey Stringer Institute. Korey Stringer played for the Minnesota Vikings and died of heatstroke after practice in 2001. The Institute has great resources with an athletic stance, perfect for high school coaches. At ASSP’s Safety 2017, a panel including a representative from the Korey Stringer Institute, an endurance athlete, construction safety professional, an exercise science professor, and an Ergodyne product specialist presented to an engaged crowd on “An Athletic Approach to Heat Illness: Beyond Water, Rest, Shade.” The conversations at that session indicated a need for safety professionals to consider new approaches to training workers by borrowing from sport – however, those in charge of our student-athletes need to take inspiration from safety pros and become students of this hazard. A peer-reviewed paper from that session is available here.

Where do we go from here? 

The Korey Stringer Institute is partnered with the NFL to provide resources on heat stress. The landing page features a video and linked resources. This news article is very well-researched and includes links to several resources from the CDC and includes rankings and more information on high school sports in the US related to heat illness prevention. Share these links with the coaches you know, whether they coach football or another fall sport, the information is timely and relevant for those coaching our future coworkers – let’s keep them safe and healthy.

Resources like the visual below are great shares for student-athletes and their coaches.

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