Suffolk County’s Enforces New Heat Index Rules for School Sports

After Nikolas Visco, 16, a junior on the Riverhead High School varsity football team, suffered heatstroke, Suffolk County has taken a strong stance on protecting student athletes from heat-related incidents, even tougher than the guidelines set forth by the state.

While state guidelines mandate a heat alert to go out when the temperature hits 95,  Suffolk County alerts will now incorporate the heat index into their decision to issue a warning.  The heat index is the temperature the human body feels when the relative humidity combines with the air temperature. Since a person sweats to cool off when the body gets too hot, if the relative humidity is high, it makes it more difficult for sweat to leave the body.

All schools when in a modified heat alert, will have mandatory and forced water breaks every 15 minutes, loose-fitted and light-colored T-shirts and shorts, and rest in shaded areas.

The state high school athletic association’s guidelines call for a heat index caution when the heat index is 80 to 85 degrees, with water breaks, watching for heat illness and reducing practice time.

A heat index watch is for a heat index of 86 to 90 degrees, with water breaks, watching for heat illness, reducing practice time and giving recovery time of at least one hour for every hour of practice. The state also recommends postponing the practice.

Suffolk’s heat alert policy also limits times for practice sessions, allowing teams to work out between 7 and 10 a.m. and again from 5 to 8 p.m. prior to Labor Day.

Ways to Avoid Heat Stroke

  • Don’t overexert yourself.
  • Open windows and use fans, or turn on air conditioning. If you don’t have air conditioning, go to a public place that does, like a mall, library, or movie theater.
  • Avoid caffeine and alcohol, which can speed up dehydration.
  • Wear loose clothing light in color and fabric, as well as a hat and sunblock, and stay in the shade or indoors if possible.
  • Drink a quart of fluids an hour.

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