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Beating the Heat: Understanding High School Football Heat Rules

Depending on the region, high school football games and practices can be played in some excruciating heat. But what are the heat rules when this happens?

Understanding High School Football Heat Rules

High school football uses the heat index to determine if games and practices should be played. Football is allowed with mandatory water breaks every 30 minutes if the heat index is 104° or below. At 105° or higher, events should be canceled, postponed, or moved inside with air conditioning. 

School leaders are responsible for hiring people who understand sports medicine, heat illness, and how to keep student-athletes safe. We found rules published online by those in charge of high school football and compiled them into an easy-to-understand format so parents and students can better understand the policies in place. 

Beating the Heat: Understanding High School Football Heat Rules

When the fall rolls around, and school is back in session, high school football teams prepare to hit the field for their games. It’s no secret that football practices can be grueling—especially in hot weather. 

But what many people don’t realize is that there are specific rules that must be followed when it comes to dealing with heat-related safety issues on the gridiron. It’s also a concern because football equipment weighs 15 or more pounds and increases heat exposure. 

The National Athletic Trainers’ Association (NATA) also recommends implementing several guidelines and protocols to ensure players remain safe during extreme temperatures. Every state typically gauges the situation by the heat index and implements rules based on that. 

Heat Index

The heat index measures both the temperature and relative humidity to determine outdoor conditions. High school sports organizations use this index to decide when the weather gets too extreme for athletes.

Expert Tip:

As the heat index increases, playing high school football outdoors becomes riskier and less safe for athletes. Once it reaches 104 degrees, it’s a requirement for the game or practice to be canceled. 

But there are also other requirements at each heat index level, like changing the duration of practice or water breaks. We have explained each below to help you understand the high school football heat rules better. 

  • Under 95°: All football activities are allowed, but athletes should have ample water and optional water breaks every 30 minutes during practices. 
  • Between 95° to 99°: Water breaks every 30 minutes, and athletes should remove helmets when not involved with any contact to cool down. Reduce outdoor activity if possible and check the heat index every 30 minutes. 
  • Between 100° to 104°: Mandatory water breaks every 30 minutes (10 mins per break), and athletes should be monitored carefully. Consider reducing practice time, postponing, or moving it indoors. 
  • Above 104°: Stop, cancel, and postpone all outdoor football activities outside. Indoor activities should be canceled if there is no air conditioning too.
High School Football Heat Rules

Hydration & Rest Breaks

The standard rule across high school football leagues in the United States is a water break every 30 minutes during practices. Players also get water breaks on the sidelines if the heat is high during a game.

The water breaks are mandatory; when the heat index reaches 95°, they should last at least 10 minutes each time. So for every hour of practice, there should be 20 minutes of water breaks for player safety. 

The National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) forbids any football games from happening if the heat index reaches 105 or higher. 

Can High School Football Get Canceled Due To The Heat?

Yes, it’s a policy that if the heat index exceeds (INSERT), all games and practices must be canceled or postponed. These rules are enforced for player safety. 

Because most parts of the country play football during the winter, it’s not usually a concern for games. But it can be a problem for practices and scrimmages during the preseason in August and early September. 

Many schools also require coaches to take a free online course to prevent heat stress and illness. These precautions can save lives, and many practices for football events are used in other sports like track and cross country. 

Risks Of Playing High School Football In The Heat

There are so many rules, regulations, and policies for high school football because of the risk to students. The school is liable for their health and well-being when they play sports in the heat.

If they are exposed unsafely to the heat, it can result in lawsuits by parents if something were to go wrong. That’s why the schools consider the following risks when deciding on heat rules for high school football. 

Heat-Related Illnesses

The two most common heat-related illnesses that occur while playing sports outdoors in extreme temperatures are heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Both can be dangerous and result in hospitalization if not treated properly. 

Expert Tip:

Heat exhaustion symptoms include dizziness, thirst, extreme sweating, nausea, vomiting, and a feeling of weakness. Heat stroke is more severe, with confusion, dizziness, and even unconsciousness. 

High School Football Heat Rules

Typically, this heat illness occurs when the core body temperature is 106°F or higher. The body can no longer control its temperature, putting it at risk. In rare cases, heatstroke deaths can happen too. 

Heat injuries like these can result in lawsuits for schools. This is why rules like mandatory water breaks and canceled practices have become more common when the heat index is too high. 

Injury

Student-athletes are also more prone to injury when they exercise or practice outside in extreme heat. These policies are in place by the schools to reduce injury risk and keep all players protected as best as possible. 

Hospitalizations 

Lastly, there is a possibility that an athlete can get hospitalized from playing in the heat when the heat index is too high. It has happened in the past, so these rules were implemented to try and avoid it happening again. 

Key Takeaways

  • When the heat index is 105° or higher, all high school football practices and games must be moved inside to a location with air conditioning or postponed. 
  • Risks of injury, heat stroke, heat exhaustion, and hospitalizations are why high schools have heat rules for football. 
  • High school football games can be canceled or postponed because of extreme heat. 

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