MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – High school football kicks off Thursday night, and the storyline this week has been all about the heat.

Kevin Merkle helps oversee guidelines for the State High School League, and he says high heat index numbers are what cam spell trouble for student athletes.

“[The heat index] combines the temperature and the humidity, and that is really what the factor is,” Merkle said. “You know…there’s a lot of days where it’s 90 degrees, and it’s not all that bad.”

The league has guidelines that tell coaches and other officials when to cancel outdoor practice…or take it inside.

But sometimes the heat can be just as bad indoors.

“We have indoor volleyball situations where the humidity can be very bad,” Merkle said. “In fact, it can be worse indoors, because there’s no wind, or there’s no breeze, as far as cooling is concerned.”

Officials have taken this swelteringly-hot week to educate student athletes on how to keep healthy in the heat.

Merkle’s advice is: “If you have a headache, if you are feeling disorientated, tell somebody. Because it means you need some water, you need to cool down.”

During high school games, referees have the authority to keep it cool on the field.

“We tell our football officials — and also in soccer — that they have the discretion to add in extra water breaks,” Merkle said. “They don’t need coaches’ permission, or whatever.”

Officials expect referees to call for at least one extra water break during games this week.

Mike Max