Danger of heat-related injuries on the increase

The Blair Oaks Lady Falcons get pumped up for their first game of the season against the St. Elizabeth Lady Hornets.

In the wake of a two-week long heat wave, sports teams across mid-Missouri are taking precautionary steps to prevent heat-related injuries in student athletes.

According to the Missouri State High School Activities Association, the risk of such injuries dramatically increases after the heat index passes a certain threshold.

MSHSAA guidelines are designed to protect student athletes from the effects of practicing during extreme heat. According to the model policy, if the heat index goes above 95 degrees, coaches must alter practice or game conditions.

The alterations include 10 minute water breaks every 30 minutes, allowing athletes to take in as much water as they desire, providing ice-down towels for cooling, and monitoring the athletes carefully.

If the heat index is from 99 to 104 degrees, coaches are required to monitor the temperature and humidity every 30 minutes and allow student athletes to change into dry t-shirts and shorts. The guidelines also recommend postponing practice to later in the day or allowing for reduced practice.

According to MSHSAA guidelines, if the temperature goes above 104 degrees all sports should stop all outside activities until the temperature goes down.

As the Blair Oaks Lady Falcons prepared for their first game of the season Tuesday afternoon, coach Sharon Buschjost said they have been pretty fortunate over the course of the summer.

"We've been pretty spoiled, you know. But the last couple weeks, you could tell a noticeable difference," Buschjost said. "We've definitely had to alter a few things."

High school senior and third baseman Lauren Viessman said she would rather take a few extra water breaks than have to miss any games.

"The big thing is staying hydrated," Viessman said. "Getting dehydrated and being out of the season early, taking a few games out, we'd rather be ready and have everybody for the games."

Coach Buschjost said even with the stifling heat, athletes today have it easy compared to when she played sports not so long ago.

"I'm from the old school," Buschjost said. "We didn't know what a heat index was. It's a different generation. Even as adults, we are more spoiled as adults, and high school students are more spoiled as high school students. So, I think we just have to recognize the heat a little bit more with them and accept the fact that it's not how it used to be."