As we have seen the past few years, the weather can be quite unpredictable. Coming off the hottest July in history, and with winter only a few months away, New York State has updated its guidelines for public schools when the weather runs exceptionally hot or cold. This is to help coaches and other school officials whose responsibility is it to protect students against conditions such as heat exhaustion and frostbite.
Before the school year begins in September, high school football players are on the field practicing for the upcoming season, sometimes in full gear. It is easy to become overheated when temperatures are in the low 80s, so on a scorching summer day, it can be dangerous. Heat exhaustion causes dehydration, muscle cramping, headaches, fainting, nausea and vomiting. If it is not addressed, a child can suffer from heatstroke, a condition in which the body’s temperature reaches over 104 degrees and therefore cannot regulate itself. This can lead to possible brain damage and even death.
For these reasons, the New York State Public High School Athletic Association (NYSPHSAA) revised the guidelines in its heat index procedure. Coaches and athletic directors are to check the “real feel” temperatures (the heat index) for the area one hour before a practice or game to determine the type of activity students should participating in.
- No restrictions if the heat index is under 79 degrees.
- Increased recommendations on the amount of time outside, fluid intake, recovery time and amount of clothing to be worn for when the heat index is from 80 to 85 degrees, 86 to 90 degrees and 91 to 95 degrees.
- No outside activity if the heat index is over 96 degrees. Activity can resume inside only if there is adequate air conditioning.
While most people do not want to think about the bitter cold of winter just yet, it is important to know what the guidelines are for student athletes playing in extreme cold. Soccer tournaments and football playoffs can run into late November or early December. Baseball, softball, and soccer start up again in March and April. If winter temperatures come early or stick around longer than usual, children can be outside running around when it may be too cold to do so. Frostnip and the more severe form, frostbite, affects mainly the face, ears, hands and feet when the skin tissue begins to freeze. Since children lose heat from their skin more rapidly than adults do, they are at more of a risk for frostnip and frostbite.
Just like the heat index procedure, NYSPHSAA has a wind chill procedure which instructs athletic and school officials to check the wind chill temperatures one hour before the start of practice or a game to determine what action to take.
- No restrictions if the wind chill is above 40 degrees.
- Increased recommendations for fluid intake, layers of clothing to be worn and whether the game/practice should be shortened or postponed for when the wind chill is 39 to 20 degrees, 19 to 10 degrees and 9 to -10 degrees.
- No outside activity if the wind chill is -11 or lower.
It is the responsibility of coaches, athletic directors and all school officials to watch over students and keep them safe. Failure to do so can result in an accident or injury. If your child has been injured as a result of a school official’s negligent supervision, contact the skilled and experienced attorneys at Finz & Finz, P.C., to hold those responsible for your family’s pain and suffering.