The Illinois High School Association Board of Directors voted to enact new heat safety guidelines for all IHSA postseason contests beginning with the 2016-17 school year.
Officially called “Specific Guidelines for Managing Heat and Heat Illness”, the policy was created by the IHSA Sports Medicine Advisory Committee. It applies only to State Series contests (Regionals, Sectionals, Super-Sectionals, State Finals, Football Playoffs), but the IHSA Board of Directors, Staff, Sports Medicine Advisory Committee and Illinois Advisory Council on Player Safety encourage all member schools to use the policy as their minimum standard for managing heat at athletic competitions.
“This policy builds on the IHSA’s tradition of putting student-athlete safety at the forefront,” said IHSA Executive Director Craig Anderson. “We believe we now have a policy that is very effective in safeguarding student-athletes, however schools are certainly welcome to implore even more stringent guidelines related to regular-season athletic competition in extreme heat if they choose to do so.”
The policy is built upon Wet Bulb Globe Temperature (WBGT) readings, which take into account factors such as humidity, wind speed, sun angle and cloud cover, in addition to air temperature, and is considered the most effective way of judging dangerous conditions by the Korey Stringer Institute and other industry experts.
As the WBGT rises, the policy builds in different types of safety measures. For example, at a WBGT range of 80.0-84.5 degrees Fahrenheit, hosts would provide “cooling stations using methods such as ice towels”, while a WBGT range of 87.6-89.9 degrees Fahrenheit would require four separate four-minute water breaks within an hour of competition. At a WBGT of 90, all events would be postponed to a cooler time of day or the next applicable day.
Anderson stressed that the IHSA Board and staff understand there may be initial resistance from coaches that extreme heat could significantly alter playing schedules, especially in sports like baseball, where rest for pitchers is an important part of game-planning. The IHSA piloted the policy during the IHSA Class 3A and Class 4A Baseball and Softball State Finals on June 10 and 11 at Silver Cross Field in Joliet and the Eastside Centre in East Peoria, respectively. The IHSA altered game times to avoid playing during the hottest hours of the day and also added in ice towels and water breaks, among other measures, as the WBGT dictated.
The IHSA will hold a series of interactive webinars to help educate member school coaches and administrators on the new policy in preparation for the fall season, and again prior to the start of the 2017 spring sports seasons.