Korey Stringer's death from heatstroke has sent shock waves through the pros to the colleges to the high school ranks.
When the Vikings' star offensive tackle collapsed July 31 and died Aug. 1, it sent a message to players and coaches about being cautious in extreme heat.
High school football, cross country running, girls' tennis, girls' swimming and diving, volleyball and soccer teams open practice Monday. In this summer of oppressive heat, the warning blares loud and clear -- coaches and athletes have to back off when the temperature and humidity approach dangerous levels and athletes must drink mass quantities of water.
The Minnesota State High School League has been one of the nation's leaders in dealing with the weather. In 1994, the MSHSL Sports Medicine Advisory Committee, and the MSHSL Board of Directors adopted competition indexes for heat and cold, which all schools must use when high school athletes practice or compete.
The MSHSL urges coaches to follow the heat index, watch kids closely, take lots of breaks, make sure athletes are hydrated, watch athletes who take antihistamines or beta blockers who may be at greater risk, trust kids -- they know what their bodies can take and don't let peer pressure force kids to make decisions that may cause harm.
Brainerd High School activities director Todd Selk said he has distributed to all Warrior varsity head coaches the MSHSL heat guidelines. He said the guidelines must be followed to the letter.
"I think we have been doing things correctly in the past," Selk said. "We all have heightened awareness because of the Korey Stringer situation. This is something that maybe is more in the forefront of our minds than it would have been.
"In years past I think we have been ahead of the game. I don't think we will do anything different other than being even more thorough than we have been in the past."
Selk added that the guidelines apply not only to Warrior varsity activities.
"The MSHSL only regulates varsity activities," he said. "From a Brainerd standpoint, we make it program-wide, grades 6-12."
Football will be most closely scrutinized for heat-related issues. The skin of players is often covered by equipment, and doesn't allow the skin to breathe and heat and perspiration to escape.
Warriors head football coach Ron Stolski begins his 40th season Monday. He played in an era when water was withheld from players during workouts and players weren't permitted to take their helmets off.
Stolski's coaching methods are at the opposite end of the spectrum. He is comfortable with how his program has dealt with heat in the past and will continue to do so in the future.
"We have long held that hydration is necessary, before practice, during practice and after practice," Stolski said. "Our kids are free to get water whenever they want. We have a watering system, a trough, right on our practice field.
"In addition to scheduled water breaks where they must go, anybody in our drills or practices is free to get water. In fact, we will schedule water breaks, some kids will not want to go and we tell them to go get it."
Stolski said the Warriors also cope with the heat by scheduling only brief periods of high intensity practice. They also may change the time of workouts or cut back to one preseason practice in a day.
"It's unreasonable to have a 1 1/2- or 2-hour practice of all high intensity," he said. "Regardless of what the weather is, we only have specific periods of high intensity.
"Both in our drills and in our conditioning, we tell athletes if you can't go at three-quarters of a top level, we want you to rest until you can. We've been doing this a long time. This isn't something that we learned all of a sudden. We learned in the 70s the importance of hydration."
Warriors cross country coach Dave Herath also will be cognizant of the heat. He said some runners bring water bottles with them. The team has a cooler of water at practices and meets. In addition, there are water fountains at the fields behind the high school.
"We always do our running early in the morning before it really heats up," Herath said. "We also make sure they have plenty of fluids.
"We try to run in areas that are shady or on a windy day we stay with the wind. We also adjust practice if it is unmanageably hot and we won't do some things that we had planned."
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.