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How coaches keep student athletes safe under extreme heat

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The football field at Clinton High School in Clinton, MS
Courtesy of Kyle Nichols

As parts of Mississippi remain under an excessive heat warning, high school coaches are using technology to keep student athletes safe.

Lacey Alexander

How coaches keep student athletes safe under extreme heat


It is 96 degrees outside of Clinton High School, but it feels like 105 degrees. Both the high school boys and girls track teams are warming up, jumping over low hurdles on the track. The football teams' kickers are practicing field goals on the football field.

To determine if it’s safe for students to practice outdoors, the athletics faculty is using an app called Zelus WBGT, which stands for "Wet Bulb Globe Temperature."

Kyle Nichols, the sports information director, explains that all schools in the state are required to go by the data in this app.

“It gives us a flat out number that says, OK, if this number is eclipsed, we are not going outside and it doesn't leave it up to interpretation of the coaches, which is for the protection of the coaches.” he said. “It's not to try to punish them… It's done to try to protect them and their student athletes to say, OK, this is what we're going to abide by. If it's not followed, then there are consequences.”

The WBGT number is determined by a number of factors, including humidity and wind speed, to measure potential heat stress in direct sunlight. No outdoor practice is permitted if the WBGT reaches 92 or higher. Athletes instead use their weight room facilities, go over tape or run drills indoors.

Nichols says the safety of athletes comes first, but he says practicing in this heat prepares them for collegiate or even professional sports.

“Even if the [WBGT] doesn’t eclipse that number, there are still challenges, there's still things that our kids have to get over.” he said. “We're still trying to keep them safe, but we're still trying to get them in the best shape in the best manner possible to compete at the highest level.”

The dangerous heat wave will continue to affect portions of Mississippi throughout the week.