MAUPIN – Ahead of Monday’s official start to fall daily doubles, temperatures across the gorge are expected to hover around the mid-80s to low 90s this week.
While cooler than the typical August, coaches are more mindful than ever on how to take the proper precautions to ensure student-athlete safety, while physical activities are at a heightened level.
Players need to know their bodies and coaches need to be extra cautious.
On the local front, Dufur High School football coach and superintendent Jack Henderson is well versed in the safety precautions needed for his football team.
He and his coaching staff encourage the athletes to be aware of their bodies and know limits.
“You just have to be really, really careful and our bottom-line concern is that our student-athletes have a great, safe experience,” Henderson said. “So, if it is hot, you back off and you drink water and get them to take care of themselves that way and give them the green light and make them feel comfortable that if they start feeling bad in practice or not feeling normal, then they need to stop.”
Heatstroke typically occurs when someone’s body temperature rises to 104 degrees or higher.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 600 people in the U.S. die from extreme heat-related incidents each year. And there have been 30 heat-related college football player deaths from 2000 to 2018, according to the American Council on Science and Health.
Looking at data from the National Center for Catastrophic Sport Injury Research from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 148 heat stroke cases resulted in death from 1960 through 2018.
The report says 90 percent of the recorded heat stroke deaths occurred during practice.
According to the same data, 47 high school players have died from 1995 through 2018, making up the majority of the 64 players who had died in that time frame.
Heat-related sicknesses sideline American high school athletes for more than 9,000 days a year.
The majority of such illnesses (70.7 percent) occur among football players, according to U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention researchers who analyzed data from the National High School Sports-Related Injury Surveillance Study.
Henderson added that athletes need to speak up and communicate with coaching personnel if they are not feeling right or need a break.
“They need to tell us, the coaches, what is going on. Just the trust between the student-athletes and the coaches are key in this regard,” he said. “It is the most important thing for coaches in an athletic program and school districts to provide the safest atmosphere possible for students to participate in extra-curricular activities. That is part of the educational program.”
Certified athletic trainers advise that the best way to curtail medical issues is for athletes to ease into an offseason conditioning regimen, so when the practices begin, an athlete will be conditioned to handle strenuous exercise.
In addition, a proper diet and water are the best ways to avoid nagging injuries and other issues.
Of the four levels of heat illness, heat stroke is the most serious.
Progressing from dehydration to heat cramps to heat exhaustion without intervention may lead to heat stroke once the core body temperature exceeds 104 degrees.
Since the common symptoms (nausea, incoherence, fatigue, weakness, vomiting, muscle cramps) of heat exhaustion and heat stroke are similar, it can be hard to tell when a player has crossed that dangerous line.
That is why most medical professionals recommend a proactive approach to playing in the heat.
On the OSAA website, athletic directors and coaches can subscribe to receive OSAA Heat Index Notifications at www. osaa.org/heat-index.
An OSAA Heat Index Notification is generated for areas where the forecasted high temperature and relative humidity indicate a forecasted heat index that may require practice modifications.
Only those areas that have a forecasted heat index of 95 degrees or higher receive alerts. Notifications are sent daily via e-mail and/or SMS to subscribers.
If temperatures rise to between 95 and 100 degrees, the OSAA recommends postponing practice to later in the day with a maximum of five hours in duration, and three hours in one session if teams are in doubles.
There is a mandatory three-hour recovery period between practices.
“Having a trainer on site to handle the heat index record keeping, keep tabs on hydration, as well as maintain a program of injury prevention and rehabilitation, is now necessary at all medium-to-large schools,” TD football head coach Andy Codding said. “I don’t know of any school, 4A or larger who does not have a full-time athletic trainer present. Coaches and athletic trainers are trained in completely different fields, but must work together every day to keep our kids healthy and competitive.”
While The Dalles, Dufur, South Wasco County and Sherman have the luxury of a trainer on staff, some other schools in the area are reliant on an educated coaching staff to know the athletes and the amount of exercise they are working through.
South Wasco County head coach Mike Waine said that as time has worn on, coaches have become more sophisticated in how to treat players, while working hand-in-hand with trainers.
“We don’t have the luxury of a trainer on our field daily, but we get a weekly visit from the trainer, which is great,” Waine said. “Our kids who are nursing a common injury like shin splints or a sprained ankle can get the attention they need. I really enjoy the visits from our training staff. They are passionate, knowledgeable and willing to spend a few extra minutes to educate, not only the players, but the coaches as well.”
Instead of two daily practices, coach Waine uses one daily evening practice.
As the evening temperatures slowly cool down, he is able to manage the risk of heat injuries easier.
There is a large watering stand that doubles as a cool-down station, where players can soak their bodies to bring their core temperature down.
Those water breaks are frequent in the summer, and when the team is conditioning hard, the athletes rotate through the cooling station every 15 minutes.
“I try to steer our players away from the energy drinks, and push more of the electrolyte-based products,” Waine added. “When it’s hot, it’s water, water, water. The proof is out there. Hydration is essential.”