Using Heads in the Heat of Competition

December 20, 2013

By Rob Kaminski
MHSAA benchmarks editor

With so much recent attention to the risks and recognition of concussions in collision sports, athletic leaders have put their heads together to address far more common – but often overlooked – threats to the health of our student-athletes: heat and sudden cardiac arrest.

The No. 1 killer of young athletes is sudden cardiac arrest, while heat stroke victims can surpass that during the year’s hottest months. While the moment of impact leading to a concussion is totally unpredictable, athletic trainers, coaches and administrators have the ability to diminish the occurrences of cardiac arrest and heatstroke. Typically, there is a pre-existing condition, or family history suggesting probabilities for sudden cardiac arrest, which can be treated when detected. And, the perils associated with hot weather – heat stroke, prostration – are almost always completely preventable.

The MHSAA has addressed both issues recently. With assistance from numerous medical governing bodies, the annual pre-participation physical form was revamped and expanded prior to the 2011-12 school year to include comprehensive information regarding participants’ medical history.

In May, the Representative Council adopted a Model Policy for Managing Heat & Humidity (see below), a plan many schools have since adopted at the local level. The plan directs schools to monitor the heat index at an activity site once the air temperature reaches 80 degrees and provides recommendations when the heat index reaches certain levels, including ceasing activities when it rises above 104 degrees.

The topic of heat-related illnesses receives a lot of attention at the start of fall when deaths at the professional, collegiate and interscholastic levels of sport occur, especially since they are preventable in most cases with the proper precautions. In football, data from the National Federation of State High School Associations shows 41 high school players died from heat stroke between 1995 and 2012.

“We know now more than we ever have about when the risk is high and who is most at risk, and we’re now able to communicate that information better than ever before to administrators, coaches, athletes and parents," said Jack Roberts, executive director of the MHSAA. “Heat stroke is almost always preventable, and we encourage everyone to avail themselves of the information on our website.

“Schools need to be vigilant about providing water during practices, making sure that students are partaking of water and educating their teams about the need for good hydration practices.”

All of which is not to say concussions aren’t a serious matter; they are. In fact, leaders in sport safety can take advantage of the concussion spotlight to illuminate these additional health threats.

A recent New York Times story (May 2013) by Bill Pennington featured a February 2013 gathering in Washington organized by the National Athletic Trainers Association. In the article, Dr. Douglas J. Casa, professor of kinesiology at the University of Connecticut and Chief Operating Officer of the Korey Stringer Institute (founded in the late NFL offensive lineman’s name to promote prevention of sudden death in sport), suggests just that.

“All the talk about head injuries can be a gateway for telling people about the other things they need to know about, like cardiac events and heat illness,” said Casa in the article. “It doesn’t really matter how we get through to people as long as we continue to make sports safer.”

Education and prevention methods need to find a permanent place in school programs if those programs are to thrive and avoid becoming targets at which special interest groups can aim budgetary arrows.

Dr. Jonathan Drezner, the president of the American Medical Society for Sports Medicine, said in the New York Times piece that sudden cardiac arrest is “so incredibly tragic and stunning that people aren’t comfortable putting it into the everyday conversation. I do wish, to some extent, it was something people talked more about because we are getting to a place where we could prevent many of these deaths.”

When it comes to heat-related deaths or illnesses, the prevention efforts can be even more successful by educating the masses. And, these efforts can be done at minimal cost to schools.

“That’s the thing about curtailing exertional heat illness: it’s 100 percent preventable, and unlike other health threats to athletes, the solutions can be very low-tech and inexpensive,” said Dr. Michael F. Bergeron, the director of the National Institute for Athletic Health & Performance at the University of South Dakota’s Sanford Medical Center, in the New York Times story.

To assist with cost and data maintenance, the MHSAA has teamed with Sports Health to provide schools with psychrometers (heat measurement instruments) at a discounted rate, and has built online tools to track heat and humidity conditions.

Managing heat and humidity policy

  1. Thirty minutes prior to the start of an activity, and again 60 minutes after the start of that activity, take temperature and humidity readings at the site of the activity. Using a digital sling psychrometer is recommended. Record the readings in writing and maintain the information in files of school administration. Each school is to designate whose duties these are: generally the athletic director, head coach or certified athletic trainer.
  2. Factor the temperature and humidity into a Heat Index Calculator and Chart to determine the Heat Index. If a digital sling psychrometer is being used, the calculation is automatic.

If the Heat Index is below 95 degrees: 

All Sports

  • Provide ample amounts of water.  This means that water should always be available and athletes should be able to take in as much water as they desire.
  • Optional water breaks every 30 minutes for 10 minutes in duration.
  • Ice-down towels for cooling.
  • Watch/monitor athletes carefully for necessary action.

If the Heat Index is 95 degrees to 99 degrees: 

All Sports

  • Provide ample amounts of water. This means that water should always be available and athletes should be able to take in as much water as they desire.
  • Optional water breaks every 30 minutes for 10 minutes in duration.
  • Ice-down towels for cooling.
  • Watch/monitor athletes carefully for necessary action.

Contact sports and activities with additional equipment:

  • Helmets and other possible equipment removed while not involved in contact.
  • Reduce time of outside activity. Consider postponing practice to later in the day. 
  • Recheck temperature and humidity every 30 minutes to monitor for increased Heat Index.

If the Heat Index is above 99 degrees to 104 degrees: 

All Sports

  • Provide ample amounts of water. This means that water should always be available and athletes should be able to take in as much water as they desire.
  • Mandatory water breaks every 30 minutes for 10 minutes in duration.
  • Ice-down towels for cooling.
  • Watch/monitor athletes carefully for necessary action.
  • Alter uniform by removing items if possible.
  • Allow for changes to dry T-shirts and shorts.
  • Reduce time of outside activity as well as indoor activity if air conditioning is unavailable.
  • Postpone practice to later in the day.

Contact sports and activities with additional equipment

  • Helmets and other possible equipment removed if not involved in contact or necessary for safety.
  • If necessary for safety, suspend activity.

Recheck temperature and humidity every 30 minutes to monitor for increased Heat Index.

If the Heat Index is above 104 degrees: 

All sports

  • Stop all outside activity in practice and/or play, and stop all inside activity if air conditioning is unavailable.

Note: When the temperature is below 80 degrees there is no combination of heat and humidity that will result in need to curtail activity.

PHOTO: The Shepherd volleyball team includes hydration during a timeout in a match this fall. 

2023 Forsythe Award Celebrates Leinaar's 40 Years Dedicated to School Sports

By Geoff Kimmerly senior editor

March 8, 2023

Few people in Michigan have had a longer-lasting influence on the rules and policies of educational athletics than Frankfort’s Karen Leinaar, who has served in several roles locally, statewide and nationally over more than 40 years contributing to the school sports community.

Thank you, Bill Baker.

The longtime teacher, coach, principal and superintendent during a career that stretched across multiple schools – including Leinaar’s growing up, Delton Kellogg – made an impression on the standout multi-sport athlete before she graduated from high school in 1977. Baker’s philosophy and work led Leinaar to study education at Michigan State University and then brought her back as Delton’s athletic director to begin four decades of making the same impact on children in her hometown and eventually in hometowns all over Michigan and beyond.

Baker died in 2009, but not before continuing to mentor Leinaar through many good times and tough ones.

“The man had two daughters that I grew up with, his wife was a teacher, and he demonstrated to all of us – he never missed an event – that we were important to him. That even though we weren’t his kids, we were his kids and athletics was a way to help kids become better people – and for some kids it was the only thing that they had positive in their life,” Leinaar said. “And he made it known just to that individual kid how important their participation was and their involvement, and how that helped them become the person that they were.

“That to me was such an example of how to help people be good people, that I just took that role on.”

It’s a role in which she continues to serve. Leinaar began her career as an athletic administrator in 1982, and as the interim athletic director currently at Frankfort High School is serving her fifth district in that position. Since June 2019, she also has served as executive director of the Michigan Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association (MIAAA), the professional organization for school sports administrators in the state with a membership of nearly 700.

Leinaar accepts the MHSAA's Women In Sports Leadership Award in 1998. To recognize that longtime and continuing impact, Leinaar has been named the 2023 honoree for the Michigan High School Athletic Association’s Charles E. Forsythe Award.

The annual award is in its 46th year and named after former MHSAA Executive Director Charles E. Forsythe, the Association's first full-time and longest-serving chief executive. Forsythe Award recipients are selected each year by the MHSAA Representative Council, based on an individual's outstanding contributions to the interscholastic athletics community.

Leinaar also served 22 years on the MHSAA’s Representative Council and a four-year term from 2009-13 on the Board of Directors for the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS), and just last week was named to the 2023 class of the National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association (NIAAA) Hall of Fame.

“It is impossible even to estimate the number of students, coaches, administrators and others who have been affected by the work Karen Leinaar has done to make school sports the best they can be – not only in her communities, but across Michigan and throughout the country,” MHSAA Executive Director Mark Uyl said. “There are few who have equaled her dedication and her support and promotion of the ideals of school-based sports. She has always placed an emphasis on being in the room, on the field or at the arena, actively participating in her leadership roles, and our programs are better for it.”

Leinaar first served as athletic director at Delton Kellogg for nearly 17 years, from March 1982 through October 1998. She spent three years at Gaylord, then 8½ at Benzie Central before taking over at Bear Lake in November 2010 and spending the next decade organizing athletic programs for students in grades 5-12 before retiring in January 2021. She came out of retirement to return to the athletic director’s chair this past fall as interim AD at Frankfort. She has completed nearly four years as MIAAA executive director, moving into that position after previously serving nine years as an assistant to the executive.

Leinaar began her service on the Representative Council in Fall 1999 and completed her last term as a statewide at-large representative at the Fall 2021 meeting.

She has been honored several times for her contributions. She received the MHSAA’s Women In Sports Leadership Award in 1998, a Citation from the NFHS in 2000, and she was named MIAAA Athletic Director of the Year in 2001. She received an MHSAA’s Allen W. Bush Award in 2014 – recognition given for work done generally behind the scenes and with little attention.

“This is the top of the mountain, per se. This one does mean so much,” Leinaar said of the Forsythe Award. “The names that are associated with this over the years, I never thought I’d be put in that group.”

Leinaar remains a continuous source of support at a multitude of MHSAA championship events, and during her time on Council was one of the most frequent representatives handing out trophies and medals to champions and runners-up at Finals events. She began while athletic director at Delton Kellogg hosting the MHSAA Volleyball Finals in Class B and Class C and continues to assist with those championships now played at Kellogg Arena in Battle Creek.

She also hosted Competitive Cheer Finals at Delton Kellogg in 1996 and 1997, Ski Finals while at Gaylord, and many more championship events across the Lower Peninsula. She continues to assist at the MHSAA’s Lower Peninsula Cross Country and Track & Field Finals.

After attending Delton Kellogg High School, Leinaar earned a bachelor’s degree in physical education, health and recreation, with a minor in driver education, from MSU in 1982. She completed a master’s in athletic administration from Western Michigan University in 1994.

Leinaar has been a member for 40 years of both the MIAAA and NIAAA, and has served as chairperson of the MIAAA Annual Conference and awards chairperson for both the state and national bodies. She’s also served as chairperson of the MIAAA’s Exemplary Athletic Program.

Past recipients of the Charles E. Forsythe Award 

1978 - Brick Fowler, Port Huron; Paul Smarks, Warren 
1979 - Earl Messner, Reed City; Howard Beatty, Saginaw 
1980 - Max Carey, Freesoil 
1981 - Steven Sluka, Grand Haven; Samuel Madden, Detroit
1982 - Ernest Buckholz, Mt. Clemens; T. Arthur Treloar, Petoskey
1983 - Leroy Dues, Detroit; Richard Maher, Sturgis 
1984 - William Hart, Marquette; Donald Stamats, Caro
1985 - John Cotton, Farmington; Robert James, Warren 
1986 - William Robinson, Detroit; Irving Soderland, Norway 
1987 - Jack Streidl, Plainwell; Wayne Hellenga, Decatur 
1988 - Jack Johnson, Dearborn; Alan Williams, North Adams
1989 - Walter Bazylewicz, Berkley; Dennis Kiley, Jackson 
1990 - Webster Morrison, Pickford; Herbert Quade, Benton Harbor 
1991 - Clifford Buckmaster, Petoskey; Donald Domke, Northville 
1992 - William Maskill, Kalamazoo; Thomas G. McShannock, Muskegon 
1993 - Roy A. Allen Jr., Detroit; John Duncan, Cedarville 
1994 - Kermit Ambrose, Royal Oak 
1995 - Bob Perry, Lowell 
1996 - Charles H. Jones, Royal Oak 
1997 - Michael A. Foster, Richland; Robert G. Grimes, Battle Creek 
1998 - Lofton C. Greene, River Rouge; Joseph J. Todey, Essexville 
1999 - Bernie Larson, Battle Creek 
2000 - Blake Hagman, Kalamazoo; Jerry Cvengros, Escanaba 
2001 - Norm Johnson, Bangor; George Lovich, Canton 
2002 - John Fundukian, Novi 
2003 - Ken Semelsberger, Port Huron
2004 - Marco Marcet, Frankenmuth
2005 - Jim Feldkamp, Troy
2006 - Dan McShannock, Midland; Dail Prucka, Monroe
2007 - Keith Eldred, Williamston; Tom Hickman, Spring Lake
2008 - Jamie Gent, Haslett; William Newkirk, Sanford Meridian
2009 - Paul Ellinger, Cheboygan
2010 - Rudy Godefroidt, Hemlock; Mike Boyd, Waterford
2011 - Eric C. Federico, Trenton
2012 - Bill Mick, Midland
2013 - Jim Gilmore, Tecumseh; Dave Hutton, Grandville
2014 - Dan Flynn, Escanaba

2015 - Hugh Matson, Saginaw
2016 - Gary Hice, Petoskey; Gina Mazzolini, Lansing
2017 - Chuck Nurek, Rochester Hills
2018 - Gary Ellis, Allegan
2019 - Jim Derocher, Negaunee; Fredrick J. Smith, Stevensville
2020 - Michael Garvey, Lawton
2021 - Leroy Hackley Jr., Byron Center; Patti Tibaldi, Traverse City
2022 - Bruce Horsch, Houghton

PHOTOS (Top) Karen Leinaar, left, awards the 2022 Division 4 volleyball finalist trophy to Indian River Inland Lakes coach Nicole Moore. (Middle) Leinaar accepts the MHSAA's Women In Sports Leadership Award in 1998.