How WBGT Impacts Georgia Athletics in 2023/2024


How WBGT Impacts Georgia Athletics in 2023/2024

Webinar Recording

WBGT Monitoring Required for All Summer Programs

One of the most significant changes for Georgia high school athletics is that Wet Bulb Globe Temperature monitoring and adherence to the activity guidelines is now required for all outdoor programs.

In the past, there was ambiguity around whether WBGT guidelines applied to offseason training activities like 7-on-7, lineman challenges, passing leagues, and other camps and clinics. Some schools monitored summer programs, while others did not closely track WBGT for these unofficial sessions.

The updated GHSA regulations make it definitively clear that all outdoor summer activities affiliated with the school now require the same WBGT oversight as in-season practices. This includes monitoring WBGT before and periodically during activities, restricting intensity levels based on the readings, modifying rest breaks, and having proper cooling stations available.

Coaches and athletic trainers must recognize that athletes face the same exertional heat risks during hot summer days, regardless of whether practices are considered official or unofficial. All outdoor training programs, including strength and conditioning sessions, are covered by the comprehensive WBGT policy.

Ensuring safe conditions during summer is critical, as athletes are often not yet fully acclimatized to the heat after spring sports. Take steps to monitor forecast temperatures and schedule summer activities in the cooler early morning or evening hours whenever possible. Follow all GHSA guidelines rigorously to promote safety and prevent exertional heat illnesses.

Pre-Game WBGT Checks Now Mandatory

Another significant policy change for Georgia athletics is the stipulation that Wet Bulb Globe Temperature readings must be taken 30 minutes prior to the start of all outdoor competitions, including sports like football, soccer, lacrosse, baseball, softball, tennis, cross country, track and field, etc.

In the past, WBGT was monitored primarily for practices, but game day measurements were not explicitly required. The updated regulations make it mandatory to check and record WBGT before competition begins.

This pre-game data will be used to determine if additional safety precautions are needed during the event. For example, if the WBGT is above 86°F, cold immersion tubs must be available on the sidelines for cooling athletes. And if WBGT is above 88°F, increased mandatory hydration breaks and timeouts will be enforced.

Coaches and athletic trainers should communicate these pre-game readings to the officials before the start of competition. This allows the officials to assist with implementing the appropriate additional safety measures.

While games involve less continual exertion than practices, athletes still face exertional heat risk, especially if competitions last for multiple hours. Having pre-game data provides visibility into the impending conditions and allows proper preparations to be made proactively.

Following the updated WBGT game day protocols provides an extra layer of precaution and safety for your athletes.

Precision WBGT Data is Vital

Using proper scientific instruments to measure Wet Bulb Globe Temperature is imperative. Getting precise real-time data is crucial for making informed decisions about modifying activities to optimize safety.

WBGT is a very sensitive metric, with entire practice modifications hinging on just a few degrees. Highly localized measurements are needed, as readings can vary dramatically even over short distances.

General weather forecasts or estimations based on the nearest airport data do not provide sufficient accuracy for safety planning. Smartphone apps claiming to calculate WBGT also cannot match dedicated instruments designed specifically for athletic purposes.

On-site WBGT devices utilizing meteorological-grade sensors are the only way to obtain actionable data. However, even some portable handheld units can have biases and sensor errors that distort readings and lead to over-estimations.

It is critical to use reputable commercial-grade WBGT monitoring systems that adhere to ISO safety standards and provide maximum accuracy under sunny, humid conditions. Proper installation, calibration, and maintenance are also essential to maintain precision season after season.

The health and safety of your athletes depend on having utmost confidence in your WBGT data. Small measurement errors can be the difference between safe continuation or dangerous intensity levels. Invest in the right professional-grade equipment and utilize it properly to optimize safety while maximizing practice productivity.

Limitations of Handheld Kestrel Units

Kestrel handheld weather meters are affordable and portable options commonly used for WBGT monitoring by athletic programs. However, research has shown these devices have inherent inaccuracies compared to commercial-grade ISO compliant systems.

A key problem with Kestrels is they do not properly shield the temperature and humidity sensors from solar radiation. Direct sunlight exposure causes the temperature sensor to read higher than the true ambient air temperature. This then makes the WBGT reading erroneously high.

Studies at the University of Georgia tested Kestrel readings against the IS0 standard WBGT measurement device. They found nearly 40% of the Kestrel readings would have resulted in restricting athletic activity when the ISO device showed activities could safely continue.

While it’s better for safety purposes for devices to overestimate heat stress rather than underestimate it, excessive overestimation can lead to unnecessary practice cancellations. This disrupts training schedules and Acclimatization Plans.

The Kestrel’s lack of a radiation shield also causes humidity readings to drop as the unit is heated above the ambient level. This introduces further inaccuracy into the final wet bulb globe calculation.

Commercial systems like those from Perry Weather utilize meteorological-grade sensors that are properly shielded and aspirated. This provides maximum accuracy and minimal bias in the most important variables that determine WBGT.

Q&A from the webinar

The following questions were asked at the end of the webinar via the Q&A inbox. Find the answered by clicking each question.

How exactly do surface types like grass vs turf impact WBGT readings?

Recent studies, including one from UGA, show the impact is negligible. The air mixes sufficiently over fields that readings are consistent regardless of surface types.

How is WBGT data logged and what’s the retention period?

Perry Weather systems automatically log readings every 5-15 minutes and keep data indefinitely. For manual devices, data should be recorded and stored for at least 1-2 years.

What are best practices for where to install a WBGT monitoring station?

Elevated locations like light poles work well to keep the station secure. Readings are calibrated down to eye level so data is accurate regardless of mounting height.

Will GHSA specify a low temperature threshold where WBGT monitoring is not needed?

This has been proposed and is under consideration. No set temperature yet but 50 degrees Fahrenheit was suggested as a possible cutoff.

Do you travel with cold tubs for away games in case the home team doesn’t provide them?

The guidelines say cold tubs are the home team’s responsibility. But visiting teams should have a backup plan in place, like using tarps and ice bags, in case the home site is not compliant.

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