With temperatures in many parts of Michigan expected to push back into the upper 80s next week, this is a pertinent time for annual reminders on training in hot weather that traditionally accompany the beginning of August as Michigan High School Athletic Association member schools prepare to begin fall sports practices.
Each year, the MHSAA provides information to its member schools to help them prepare for hot weather practice and game conditions during the late summer and early fall. Practices for all Fall 2021 sports – cross country, football, Lower Peninsula girls golf, boys soccer, Lower Peninsula girls swimming & diving, Lower Peninsula boys and Upper Peninsula girls tennis, and volleyball – may begin Monday, Aug. 9.
The Health & Safety page of the MHSAA Website has a number of links to various publications and information including guidelines for acclimatization from the National Athletic Trainers’ Association. The preseason publication Heat Ways also is available for download and includes valuable information on heat management in addition to requirements and resources regarding head injuries and sudden cardiac arrest.
The first days of formal practices in hot weather should be more for heat acclimatization than the conditioning of athletes, and practices in such conditions need planning to become longer and more strenuous over a gradual progression of time. Schools also must consider moving practices to different locations or different times of day, or change practice plans to include different activities depending on the conditions. Furthermore, football practice rules allow for only helmets to be worn during the first two days, only shoulder pads to be added on the third and fourth days, and full pads to not be worn until the fifth day of team practice.
The MHSAA advises student-athletes to make sure to hydrate all day long – beginning before practice, continuing during and also after practice is done. Water and properly-formulated sports drinks are the best choices for hydration.
A number of member schools follow the MHSAA’s Model Policy for Managing Heat & Humidity, which while not mandated for member schools was adopted as a rule for MHSAA postseason competition in 2013. The plan directs schools to begin monitoring the heat index at the activity site once the air temperature reaches 80 degrees, and provides recommendations when the heat index reaches certain points, including ceasing activities when it rises above 104 degrees. (When the temperature is below 80 degrees, there is no combination of heat and humidity that will result in a need to curtail activity.) The model heat & humidity policy is outlined in a number of places on the MHSAA Website, including as part of Heat Ways.
Injuries happen to skiers of all levels, even under pristine conditions and when using the best available equipment. “Beginners are more likely to get injured. But when experienced skiers go down, they tend to have more severe injuries,” says Michelle Gambino-Gorney, a certified athletic trainer at the Henry Ford Kutcher Clinic for Concussion and Sports Neurology.
But you don’t have to let the risk of injury hold you back from having fun on the slopes. A few basic safety tips? Stay within your ability level and ensure your skis are in good condition. That said, going beyond ski safety basics and learning how to avoid injuries can help you stay safe on the slopes. Here are six expert tips:
Use caution when getting on and off the ski lift. Ski lifts make a lot of people anxious. Being high off the ground on your journey up the mountain can invoke a fear of falling. “But it’s getting on and off the ski lift where the vast majority of lift-related injuries occur,” Gambino-Gorney says. To lower your risk of injury, remove pole straps and backpacks before loading, look over your shoulder to make sure you sit squarely on the seat at the correct time, and don't try to retrieve items you lose hold of (including poles, gloves and phones). It’s best to let them go and ski back for them.
Keep it simple at terrain parks. Terrain parks include human-made features like ramps and rails that enable skiers to do jumps, flips and other maneuvers. Any time your skis leave the ground, injuries are possible. You can safely enjoy terrain parks by starting with smaller obstacles and maneuvers and mastering them before moving on to other challenges. Do not rely on online tutorials to learn new skills. Ski instructors can help you learn the correct technique and provide personalized tips for achieving your goals.
Beware of trees. Trees present multiple dangers. Colliding with a tree, especially at high speed, leads to some of the most severe ski injuries. A small number of skiers die each year from tree collisions. To avoid collisions, ski with control. Other concerns include tree wells and snow immersion suffocation. This type of injury occurs when a person falls head first into a pocket of loose snow near a tree trunk and gets trapped. Skiing with a partner on ungroomed paths, which typically run past tree wells, is essential. If you become immersed in a tree well, a partner can step in to help you break free.
Pay extra attention during your final run of the day. Injuries are more common during skiers’ last runs. “Skiing later in the day can be dangerous because small changes can affect your ability to maneuver and react to conditions,” Gambino-Gorney says. Fresh powder may get matted down. Groomed areas become bumpy. And fatigue can make you less aware of hazards and other skiers. While it may be tempting to give it your all on your last run, it’s better to ease up and take your time.
Follow the Skier Code of Responsibility. People of all ages, abilities and ski levels can safely share the slopes when everyone follows the National Ski Area Association™ Responsibility Code. Key points include: Giving right of way to people ahead of (downhill from) you, staying off closed trails, and looking uphill for other skiers when merging.
Expedite access to help in an emergency. Being prepared can help you quickly reach ski patrol in an emergency. Most ski areas list their ski patrol phone number near the lifts. While you are waiting in the ski lift line, program it into your phone. If you or someone nearby experiences an injury, being able to call for help will save precious time. Instead of waiting for someone to ski down the mountain and ask for help, you can stay with the injured person and call for help. Calling also makes it easier to share important details so that ski patrol arrives with the appropriate people and equipment.
“Skiing is like any sport in that there’s a risk of injury. But many people hit the slopes without incident. Some skiers go decades without a single fall,” Gambino-Gorney says. Follow these insider tips and don't forget to wear a helmet so you can relish your next powder day and get the most out of the season.
Michelle Gambino-Gorney is a certified athletic trainer at the Henry Ford Kutcher Clinic for Concussion and Sports Neurology.