Fire Beat Heat

Knox College Prairie Fire sports teams handle record hot weather

August 30, 2013

Knox College Football Practice
Knox College's head athletic trainer has run out of words to describe the late summer Midwestern heat wave that's hit preseason practice this year. After "incredible," and a series of adjectives all preceded by "very," he's settled on plain old "bad."

Knox College Athletic Trainer Scott Sunderland"This is just a bad series of events," says Scott Sunderland, who oversees athletic training for Knox's 21 teams. Preseason practice began at Knox on August 19 -- just about the worst possible timing, he says. "After a very cool summer, a very cool July, we're into a very hot two weeks in August."

The result was that many athletes who worked on conditioning through the summer did not become acclimated to hot weather -- and acclimation is critical, according to Sunderland. In addition to directing the athletic training program at Knox since 1990, Sunderland also has worked at the Olympics and Pan American Games.

"We watch the conditions and athletes very closely," Sunderland says. "Most teams didn't practice on Wednesday afternoon (August 28, when the heat index topped 100), and they're limiting workouts and changing workouts."

Snapshots of Fall 2013 Preseason Practice

Among the initiatives that Sunderland and Knox teams have taken during the heat wave:

  • "Hydration is vital. The recommended replacement rate is 24 ounces for each pound of weight lost."
  • "Get out of the heat at the first sign of trouble. We educate coaches, so they know what to look for."
  • "We pay special attention to the sports with protective gear that retains heat."
  • "We're doing a lot of workouts in the swimming pool. That really takes down body temperature."
  • "We contract with a service that provides us with alerts on our phones -- in case of storms or lightning, also real-time and predictions on temperature."
  • "Keep a watchful eye. Even with a weather service, this week it got hotter earlier that we thought it would, and two degrees hotter than predicted."