TEXAS VIEW: UIL needs to mandate heat-safety measures for high school football

THE POINT: We must protect student athletes from heat stroke, no matter what climate they live in.

High school football practice is back for the fall season, but the summer heat hasn’t gone anywhere. This year’s heat wave has been setting records.

It’s critical that we do everything we can to keep our players safe. That means it’s time for the University Interscholastic League to mandate more heat-safety protocols.

The UIL requires certain heat-safety protocols and requires safety training for its athletic coaches and sponsors. But it leaves many other safety judgment calls up to individual school districts.

Reporting by The Dallas Morning News shows that many districts aren’t adopting heat-safety best practices.

One such protocol is Wet Bulb Globe Temperature monitoring: a tool that measures heat-risk factors beyond the heat index.

The Korey Stringer Institute, which is committed to preventing sudden death in sports, lists it among its best practices for heat-illness prevention. But it’s not a UIL requirement.

“The question is not whether Wet Bulb Globe Temperature monitoring is a good thing or a bad thing,” Jamey Harrison, UIL deputy director, said. “We discuss it in our guidance as a good thing. The question is whether it should be mandated at the state level.”

The UIL and its medical experts agree that these protocols are effective. But they don’t support requiring them.

Texas has a vast geography, Harrison said, and the climate varies immensely across the state. That makes a one-size-fits-all rule difficult, he said.

But it would also seem to be all the more reason for a sophisticated climate monitoring system.

We understand the reluctance to disadvantage teams in hotter climates. But ultimately, student safety should come first. And at the very least, teams should have the tools on hand to understand and prepare for the conditions.

Cold water immersion tubs should be an easy measure to adopt. The tubs can help to save an athlete experiencing exertional heatstroke. At Guthrie High School, where an 18-year-old student died in 2020 during football practice, a tub was not on hand.

Our colleague Lia Assimakopoulos reported that, combined, the tubs and the Wet Bulb Globe Temperature monitoring would cost about $300. That’s a drop in the bucket.

Of course, each school district and each team will do things a little differently. But heat safety is crucial, no matter the climate.

No one does high school football quite like Texas. Our safety standards should also be the best.

Dallas Morning News