Although Lafayette finally received a bit of relief from the heat, the scorching Louisiana summer is not behind us and continues to test the endurance of student-athletes. One group of professionals stands at the forefront of ensuring the safety and well-being of our young athletes – school athletic trainers. These dedicated individuals are the unsung heroes of our schools, especially during the recent heat wave that has gripped our state.
The Louisiana heat wave has brought with it record-breaking temperatures and challenging conditions, making outdoor activities, particularly sports, a potential hazard for student-athletes. School athletic trainers, equipped with their expertise, knowledge, and unwavering commitment, have played an indispensable role in safeguarding the health and safety of our student-athletes during this extreme weather.
The responsibilities of school athletic trainers extend far beyond providing first aid for minor injuries. JD Boudreaux, Ochsner Lafayette General Director of Sports Medicine, states, “Athletic trainers are equipped to prevent, recognize, and treat a variety of health issues, often providing necessary preemptive, emergency, and lifesaving care for all. As members of the healthcare profession and recognized by the American Medical Association, athletic trainers are first responders for medical emergencies in sports. Providing our schools with athletic trainers is one way Ochsner Lafayette General supports the health and safety of those in our community.”
Athletic trainers are essential in preventing, evaluating, and treating heat-related illnesses, which can be life-threatening. Their roles have been instrumental in mitigating the risks associated with strenuous physical activities in extreme heat.
“In my role as an Athletic Trainer, I work very closely with all of our coaches,” Alissa Marks, Ascension Episcopal School’s Athletic Trainer comments. “We complete annual education and training to ensure we always use best practices and everyone is up to date on proper policies and procedures. Especially during such a difficult time of year and having to battle some extreme heat, our coaches do an incredible job in following recommendations and helping me to keep our student-athletes safe on a daily basis.”
State laws, Ascension Episcopal School policies and procedures, and Ochsner Lafayette General Sports Medicine recommendations provide guidelines for athletic activities occurring outdoors. Although heat policies have been a standard at our school for many years, these policies were strengthened in 2021 to align with Act 259 (Serious Sports Injury Law or the Remy Hidalgo Act) and BESE Bulletin 135.
These school-specific laws and policies serve as a model for safeguarding student-athletes' health by outlining heat acclimatization periods, hydration regulations, required coach training, emergency action plan rules, and heat index monitoring. Keeping student-athletes safe requires the collaboration of athletic trainers and coaches to implement safety laws and procedures.
“Having a good working relationship with our Ascension coaching staff is essential in allowing me to do my job effectively,” says Marks. “We have open and consistent communication, so we are all on the same page when it comes to the care of our student-athletes. I believe we have built a sense of trust, knowing the health and safety of our student-athletes takes top priority. The support that I have received from our coaches at Ascension is something that I am truly grateful for.”
Ascension Episcopal School head football coach Stephen Hearen and Alissa Marks share steps they have implemented and equipment they have utilized to mitigate heat-related illnesses during this record-breaking summer.
All Ascension coaches are educated and trained on Ascension's Emergency Action Plan and Heat Illness procedures prior to the start of their seasons.
We adjust practice time, duration, or location based on daily Wet Bulb Globe Temperature readings.
We increased water and cool-down breaks throughout practice.
Our practice fields have tents to provide extra shade, as well as large misting fans for athletes during cool-down breaks.
Athletes have open access to water throughout the entirety of practice to help with hydration.
Ice towels are available at practices to help with cooling and recovery.
Electrolyte drinks post-practice help replenish salt lost from sweat.
Our athletes practice without helmets or shoulder pads when possible/necessary.
“The Wet Bulb Globe Temperature is a special thermometer to measure heat stress in direct sunlight. It factors in temperature, humidity, wind speed, and cloud cover to give a more accurate analysis of the impacts of environmental heat on our bodies,” said Marks. “These daily readings are a valuable tool to guide our decisions and prevent heat-related illnesses.”
Should an athlete become overheated, cold water immersion tubs are set up daily as a precautionary measure. “We are so thankful for our partnership with Ochsner Lafayette General Sports Medicine, who made it possible for Ascension to have not just one but two ice machines,” says Eric Mouton, Director of Athletics at Ascension.
“Athletics teaches so much more than just the sport they are participating in,” says Mouton. “Life lessons like commitment, self-discipline, mental toughness, learning to work with and support others, resilience, and goal setting, to name just a few. We want to continue playing and growing our athletes, but never at the expense of their health. The support of Ochsner Lafayette General, Alissa Marks, and the coaches allow us to play safely and for these athletes to have a somewhat normal season.”
With heat indexes well into the triple digits, the contributions of school athletic trainers in Louisiana remain indispensable. The goal is to foster a love for sports and ensure that young athletes can pursue their passions safely, even in the face of challenging weather conditions. The unwavering commitment of our athletic trainers and coaches to the health and safety of our youth deserves recognition and appreciation from the entire community.