TRAVERSE CITY — The heat is on.
With late-summer temperatures rising in the area, local football teams are keeping up on new Michigan High School Athletic Association heat index guidelines aimed at keeping players safe from heat stroke.
It was hot at Tuesday’s Traverse City Central practice — 87 degrees on the MHSAA’s newly-imposed heat index — but not hot enough to mandate extra water breaks during practice sessions. Today’s highs are supposed to be in the 90s, but a forecast of windy conditions should help keep the heat index within a workable range.
“By MHSAA rules, you have to keep an eye on that now,” TC West head coach Tim Wooer said. “If you read into what they want, all their precautions are things we’re going to do anyway. We’re going to have ice towels. We’ll take their helmets off if it’s hot.”
The MHSAA offers suggestions if the heat index reaches 95. When if hits 99, teams are required to have 10-minute water breaks over 30 minutes of activity. Anything over 104 means activity must be stopped.
“The coaches are required to do an online clinic and then answer questions, so the understanding is very good at this point for coaches, unlike in the past,” TC Central head coach Tom Passinault said.
The National Center for Catastrophic Sports Injury Research reports that at least 40 players have died since 1992 from heat stroke. The total number of heat stroke deaths has doubled since 1975.
Central and West mostly practice in the morning, avoiding the hottest part of the day. But the Trojans don’t have as much practice space available as West.
With Central having problems with its practice field’s surface, the varsity is taking the junior varsity field in the morning. The JV and freshman teams are being pushed to the afternoon, which may create the need to adjust to the hot temperatures on the fly.