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Schools following MSHSAA guidelines for athletic activities amid extreme heat


In the first week of athletic competition, many area high schools are moving practices and games around to avoid extreme heat.

Columbia Public Schools has pushed back Friday night's football game between Rock Bridge and Park Hill South to 8 p.m. because of the heat. A spokeswoman for Columbia Public Schools said the district follows the Missouri State High School Athletics and Activities Association heat protocol guidelines.

Those guidelines are based on readings of a wet bulb globe thermometer. According to MSHSAA's website, a wet bulb globe thermometer is the recommended device for measuring heat and humidity levels during practices or competitions.

Stefanie West -- director of sports medicine at Peak Sport and Spine -- said the tool takes into consideration temperature, direct or indirect sunlight or cloud cover, wind speed, heat and humidity.

MSHSAA Assistant Executive Director MSHSAA Greg Stahl, said this is the organization's sixth year of using the wet bulb globe thermometer as best practice. He said the device does all of this in the exact site it's located.

"It gives us a hands-on tool or device for that exact site and location, for a very specific reading for that site or location of the practice or the game," Stahl said. "It's data that gives us a more hard, fast reading of the actual environmental conditions at that specific site."

Stahl gave the example of one football field in town having more bleachers that block air flow, while another across town could be more open and therefore have a cooler reading on the wet bulb globe thermometer, even though they're not far away from one another.

The tool is recommended any time the air temperature is above 80 degrees. The guidelines state when the wet bulb globe thermometer reading is 92 or higher--taking into account all of the above-mentioned factors--outdoor practice and competition should be canceled or delayed.

Stahl said MSHSAA has been fielding many questions from across the state this week in regard to what to do about athletic activities, as well as to check they are using the device correctly.

"Our job is to support the schools taking the correct action in using the wet bulb globe as their decision making tool," Stahl said. "We have to be able to trust our administrators that are on the user end of that wet bulb globe thermometer, to assist them with making that decision. So, as long as they are taking those important steps of using the tool, using it accurately, we fully support the decision that they make."

West said even though schools are cancelling or pushing back outdoor activities as a precaution, it still may not be enough to make a difference.

"We're all kind of looking at those WBGT temperatures at 7, 8, 9 p.m. at night, and they're still pretty high," West said. "So, moving it an hour later, I'm not sure it's going to make a huge difference for that first half. Second half, you'll notice a difference for Friday Night Football."

Other precautions on MSHSAA's website say when the reading is between 90 and 92, the maximum practice time allowed is one hour. Football may not use protective equipment, and there must be 20 minutes of rest throughout the one-hour practice.

When the reading is 87 to 90, the maximum practice time allowed is two hours with a minimum of four rest breaks each hour. When the reading is 82 or lower, high school athletes can practice as normal.

The readings can be found using different tools or even an app. Stahl said these guidelines are not mandated, but they are highly recommended by MSHSAA to member schools.

"Any time our state association has taken that position, it should be a red flag for our member schools that, 'For the best interests of our school and for the best interest of our kids and the highest level of safety and risk management for our kids, this is the practice we need to follow,'" Stahl said.

West said schools should be using the wet bulb globe thermometer every day. She said a reading should be taken 30 minutes before practice or competition, and every 30 minutes during activity.

The National Federation of State High School Associations has hydration and fluid intake tips for athletes, such as drinking throughout all physical activities even if they are not thirsty. Drink water and traditional sport drinks, but avoid fruit juices, sodas and energy drinks during exercise.

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Morgan Buresh

Morgan is an evening anchor and reporter who came to ABC 17 News in April 2023.


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