The temperature in McPherson Monday reached 99 degrees, but the heat index hit 101 at 4 p.m., right when McPherson High School was beginning the afternoon practice sessions.

The temperature in McPherson Monday reached 99 degrees, but the heat index hit 101 at 4 p.m., right when McPherson High School was beginning the afternoon practice sessions.
Hot enough that concerns grew towards the safety of those participating in the first day of practice for the fall sports season.
“All teams that were practicing at that time were on mandatory water breaks every 15 minutes and they built in additional rest times in their practice schedule,” MHS Activities Director Shane Backhus said. “In addition coaches are trained to watch for heat stress in athletes, and if they ever suspect it, they will sit athletes out and monitor them while they cool off.”
McPherson High’s reaction is typical of schools nationwide as they deal with summer heat at the start of the school year. In recent years, more attention has been directed at heat-related illnesses for student-athletes and football players in particular.
A study by the National Study for Catastrophic Sport Injury Research at the University of North Carolina says that 35 football players have died in the United States between 1995 and 2010 due to heat-related issues.
With that figure in mind, the Kansas State High School Activities Association has in place recommendations for how coaches handle the heat that accompanies the start of practices each August.
According to a pamphlet put out by the KSHSAA, if the apparent temperature, as gauged by the air temperature combined with the relative humidity, is between 90 and 104 degrees, practices are recommended to be modified to include water breaks every 15 to 20 minutes.
For apparent temperatures between 105 and 124 degrees, KSHSAA suggests holding practices with no pads or helmets, with frequent water and rest breaks. For temperatures over 125 degrees, the recommendation is to cancel practice all together.
These guidelines are in place no matter the sport or size of the school.
“Smaller schools can get a bad rap for not being prepared,” Bobby Childs, Elyria Christian School Athletic Director, said. “However we take the health of the student seriously. Our coaches are very knowledgeable and cautious. In my three years here we have not had any student suffer major heat-related illness.”
A key to preventing heat-related illnesses is acclimating athletes to the heat. KSHSAA has a seven step acclimation program that they provide on their website, which includes recommendations such as shorter, less intense practices to start the season, adjusting to each individual athlete’s conditioning and ensuring that athletes are properly hydrated to start practices.
When it comes to hydration, KSHSAA recommends weighing athletes prior to and after practices, as it is common for athletes to lose between five and eight pounds of sweat during a game or intense practice.
The guidelines say to drink 16 ounces of fluid two hours prior to any exercise, with another 8-16 ounces 10-15 minutes before starting. During the exercise, the recommendation is 4-16 ounces of fluid every 15-20 minutes.
Afterwards, athletes should drink 24 ounces of fluid for every one pound lost during exercise within six hours of stopping. Recommended fluids include water and sports drinks with low sodium and carbohydrates. Soda, fruit juices, carbonated beverages and caffeine should be avoided, if possible.
For more recommendations from KSHSAA about practicing in high temperatures, visit
“Heat related issues have to be taken seriously, especially when some of the athletes are not acclimated to being outside much when practice starts in the fall,” Todd Ashbaugh, Little River Athletic Director, said.
Temperatures the rest of this week are predicted to be right around 100 degrees, with a possible cool down into the low 90s or upper 80s for early next week.
While cooler, it still leaves athletes at risk, once relative humidity and heat indices are taken into account. That means high school administrators and coaches will stay vigilant and do their best to keep their student-athletes safe.
“Good teams do not put their athletes in positions that can cause injury when it is avoidable,” Backhus said.

Contact Chris Swick by email at and follow him on Twitter @SwickSentinel.