AIA issues new guidelines to protect high school athletes from heat
PHOENIX — As temperatures continue to grip the Valley, the Arizona Interscholastic Association is taking steps to protect high school athletes from the dangers of heat illness.
It recently revised its guidelines to help athletes get acclimated to the heat during summer practice and avoid getting heat strokes.
“The number one thing is the safety of our athletes,” said David Hines, executive director of the AIA.
“If done properly, we can avoid heat issues. But we have to be smart and we have to follow protocol.”
The AIA’s heat acclimatization protocol states teams “may not choose to train in a less severe climate,” such as in the high country or beach towns. During the first five days of practice, athletes may only participate in one practice per day and practice should not exceed three hours.
For football and other sports requiring helmets or shoulder pads, only helmets are permitted the first three days of practice. Helmets and shoulder pads may be worn starting on day four.
During practice for the next nine days, players can participate in two practices per day followed by a single-practice day. All protective equipment may be worn and full contact may begin on day seven of practice.
“Because the risk of exertional heat illnesses during the preseason heat acclimatization period is high, we strongly recommend that an athletic trainer be on site before, during and after all practices,” the AIA states in its guidelines.
The AIA also has new guidelines to keep athletes hydrated. It states enough water and other fluids should be readily accessible during and after all sports participation and physical activities.
It also recommends the amount of water athletes should be drinking to stay hydrated depending on their age.
“We want to make sure that water is given frequently — breaks are given,” Hines said. “At times, if the heat is really severe, then take the helmet and shoulder pads off when you’re doing conditioning.”
In addition, the AIA lays out steps athletes should take if they experience a heat stroke. It states athletes should spend at least a week without exercise and be cleared by a doctor before they’re able to begin exercising again.
They should begin practicing in a cool environment and slowly increase the length, intensity and heat exposure for two weeks “to acclimatize and demonstrate heat tolerance under the direction of a licensed healthcare professional.”
Hines said his association meets with coaches three times a year, before the fall, winter and spring seasons begin, to remind them about these and other policies.
“We remind coaches that they need to adhere to those policies and to be mindful of the weather, especially this time of year, and modify practices when needed,” he said.
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