High schools emphasize heat safety on first day of practice

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TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) – For young athletes just starting their seasons, the recent hot weather can be dangerous.

Monday was the very first day of practice for high school teams across Kansas. Shawnee Heights High School Athletic Director Cody Whitney said the athletes are pumped to get back out on the courts and fields.

“It’s an exciting time in Kansas. However, it is Kansas so we can’t really count on the weather doing anything consistently,” Whitney said. “Unfortunately our first two days of practice this year are going to be two of the hottest days we’ve had yet.”

The Kansas State High School Activities Association has rules for when it gets this hot. They do things like limiting outside practice times and requiring water breaks.

Doctor Steven Stites, with the University of Kansas Health System said that’s crucial.

“People get in trouble when they are not hydrated, and they can’t perspire and they don’t get rid of the heat like they should,” Stites said.

Even with lots of water, the heat makes things difficult for athletes like senior Nolan Slusser.

“You try your hardest but that heat gets to you sometimes so you’ve got to keep hydrated, keep everybody’s motivation up and stay positive,” Slusser said.

That’s why coaches and athletes at Shawnee Heights High get lots of training before they even start practicing.

“Classes on concussion and heat-related illness. Identifying signs of heat-related illness and what heatstroke could look like in an athlete,” Whitney said. “We work really hard to make sure they are aware of what they’re doing as well as coaches are aware of what their bodies are doing.”

That knowledge isn’t just important, it’s potentially life-saving.

“We lose people every year because they don’t follow the signs of early heat illness or heat exhaustion and they progress in that and become critically ill,” Stites said.

It was just a year ago a 19-year-old football player in Kansas died. Braden Bradford, a freshman and at Garden City Community College, collapsed after practice. An autopsy report revealed he died of heatstroke.

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