Keeping student-athletes safe in the heat

Jul 27, 2023, 1:00 PM | Updated: Sep 11, 2023, 11:17 am

Springville High School football team behind WGBT...

Springville High School football team behind WGBT

SALT LAKE CITY — They are back out on the fields. Football players, soccer players and cross-country runners are all in training now for their upcoming seasons. How do student-athletes train safely in this heat?

“Every school in the state of Utah, at no charge to themselves if they have a football team, are able to get a Wet Bulb Glow Temperature device or WBGT,” said Lisa Walker, certified athletic trainer and teacher at Springville High School. “That device takes a combination of measurements. What is the actual temperature where the practice is taking place? What is the humidity? What is the wind speed? Then it comes out with a general reading.”

The WBGT is easy to use because it is color-coded in green, yellow, orange, red and black.

“We make adjustments or cancellations based on being in a color for ten minutes or more,” Walker explained.

For instance, if the bulb goes to red, they make modifications to practice.

“We stop it temporarily or we might remove some equipment,” Walker said. “Temperatures on the turf are much hotter than temperatures on the grass. So if you have a turf field and it’s red on the turf, it might be green on the grass. You could simply move the kids to a cooler location.”

Walker said earlier this week, there was a school that was both black on the turf and black on the grass, so they delayed their practice and came back a few hours later when it was cooler.

How to handle student-athletes and the heat

Everybody needs to stay hydrated. Everyone should stay in the shade if they can. Student-athletes are not the only ones who should be aware of the clothing they’re wearing. Everyone needs clothes that allow the heat to dissipate.

“Your body works like a swamp cooler,” Walker explained. “As you sweat, as long as there is the ability for that sweat to evaporate, we do pretty much OK. But if we run out of enough fluid to sweat, we’re in trouble. If we have clothes that trap the heat, we’re in trouble.”

Student-athletes of all ages heat up and dehydrate much quicker when they’re exerting.

What can parents do?

“When you’re going to put your children (or yourself for that matter) out there to compete, you need to do some checking,” said Walker. “Do they have the right personnel in place? Do they have the equipment necessary? Do they have a plan that they’re going to follow in the event of an emergency?”

“Don’t just say, ‘It’s hot. I did it when I was a kid’.”

Second, Walker suggested you weigh your child at home before the match.

“Then weigh again when you get back home,” she said. “How many pounds did they lose? That will be water. Then replace that with about 20 ounces of any liquid with electrolytes.”

It’s also important to remember that even athletes working out indoors can suffer from heat-related illnesses.

“We can’t be deceived that because they’re inside, they’re safe,” Walker said. “It might be hot and stuffy inside. So we can use the WBGT device inside, as well.”

The general advice for parents? We need to be mindful of where are the kids, what the WGBT tells us, and what modifications, if any, do we need to make.

“We worry about everybody in the heat right now, but with the right equipment and right personnel in place, we should be ok on the fields, but modifications have to be respected,” Walker emphasized.

The biggest environmental issue?

Walker said that the biggest environmental issue facing our athletes on the field is not heat. It’s lightning.

“At my football practice last night, we delayed it for lighting and eventually called it off because the storms were converging,” said Walker. “There are apps you can use, but once lightning gets within a 10-mile radius of your location, you need to go indoors.”

Notably, when Walker called off the practice, she noticed a youth group right in the same area that stayed on the field.

“We’ve got protections in place to protect the kids,” Walker summarized. “We just need the equipment out there, which they have free access to, and we need the right personnel out there actually doing it and monitoring it.”

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.


long covid clinic patient in utah...

Adam Small

U of U long COVID clinic shares findings after three years of seeing patients

The Long COVID Clinic in Utah has treated more than 3,000 patients over the last three years according to the clinic's medical director.

14 hours ago

Side view close-up of pregnant woman touching her belly....

Britt Johnson

Pregnant women who contract COVID could experience long COVID symptoms study finds

A recent U OF U study found out that 1 in 10 women who contract COVID during pregnancy will experience long covid symptoms.

2 days ago

air quality in utah takes a hit as smog settles over the city...

Adam Small

Wildfire smoke moving into the Wasatch Front

Air quality in Utah could be unhealthy for sensitive groups in some areas due to wind bringing in wildfire smoke from the Pacific Northwest.

3 days ago

Health officials in eastern Utah are still investigating after a dozen swimmers got sick at the Ver...

Britt Johnson

Swimming pool at Vernal hotel still closed after acid leak

A dozen swimmers became sick and were hospitalized in Vernal on Saturday, later health officials discovered acid had leaked into the pool.

4 days ago

German Health Minister Karl Lauterbach receives a Covid booster vaccine on September 18, 2023.(Chri...

Alexandrea Bonilla

What’s a summer without a COVID spike?

COVID cases are surging once again this summer. The CDC says cases often rise due to the heat of the summer.

4 days ago


Mariah Maynes

Researchers reveal new findings in neurological origins of creativity

A team of researchers said that a new study shows creativity may be reliant on certain neurological functions.

4 days ago

Sponsored Articles

A young woman smiles while reading the menu at a lakeside restaurant, enjoying the panoramic view o...

Bear Lake Convention & Visitors Bureau

The best restaurants to try in Bear Lake

Save this guide to the best restaurants in Bear Lake when you need to find a place to dine during your next visit.

Female leg stepping on weigh scales. Healthy lifestyle, food and sport concept....

Health Utah

Sustainable weight loss: the science-backed way to achieve it

Learn more about Debbie's weight loss journey with Health Utah, who have a unique weight loss philosophy for success.

Underwater shot of the fisherman holding the fish...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

Your Bear Lake fishing guide

Bear Lake offers year-round fishing opportunities. By preparing ahead of time, you might go home with a big catch!

A group of people cut a purple ribbon...


Comcast announces major fiber network expansion in Utah

Comcast's commitment to delivering extensive coverage signifies a monumental leap toward a digitally empowered future for Utahns.

a doctor putting her hand on the chest of her patient...

Intermountain Health

Intermountain nurse-midwives launch new gynecology access clinic

An access clinic launched by Intermountain nurse-midwives provides women with comprehensive gynecology care.

Young couple hugging while a realtor in a suit hands them keys in a new home...

Utah Association of Realtors

Buying a home this spring? Avoid these 5 costly pitfalls

By avoiding these pitfalls when buying a home this spring, you can ensure your investment will be long-lasting and secure.

Keeping student-athletes safe in the heat