Texas high school football players are back in pads this week. And with it, comes extra preparation to stay hydrated and safe amid long stretches of triple-digit heat.
Empty stands and full sun in the sky are signs another Texas high school football season is underway.
At Thomas Jefferson High School in Dallas it means not only how you prepare, but when.
“We make sure we pick the coolest part of the day and all our protocols are set,” said Raul Velazquez, the head athletic trainer at TJ. He says that means a 2-hour practice starting at 8 a.m.
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Dallas ISD has its 4-page heat guidelines online with rules around how often and when school can practice outside highlighted for extra emphasis. Dallas ISD does not allow any practices between 12 p.m and 6 p.m.
Jamey Harrison is deputy director with the UIL, which oversees Texas high school sports, and says coaches are required to be trained in emergency response and to recognize the signs of heat-related illness.
“We are aware of the record-breaking temperatures that we’re experiencing in most parts of Texas this year,” Harrison said.
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The UIL requires schools to allow students to acclimatize, to try and get used to the heat over several days before practice intensifies.
Harrison adds another change in recent years which allows student-athletes on campus for strength and conditioning in June and July, which helps too.
“They’re better acclimatized and they’re more accustomed to practicing so, it really changes the dynamic of that first week in a really positive way,” Harrison said.
The National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) lists exertional heat stroke as the leading cause of preventable deaths in high school athletics.
Dallas ISD goes beyond state requirements and mandates the availability of a cold tub at practices and measuring, which rapidly lowers core body temperature, key to reducing the possibility of long-term injury or death from heat stroke.
The state's second-largest district also requires the use of Wet Bulb Globe Temperature (WBGT) which takes into account not just air temperature and relative humidity (heat index), but also wind speed and radiant heat from the sun.
Velazquez says the precautions in concert with preparation and communication help keep student-athletes safe.
“My players have done a really good job of taking care of each other, of letting me know when ‘hey one of our teammates is not feeling good’ calling me or letting one of the coaches know.”