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Coaches, OSAA say when it's OK to play

I live on Springbrook Road near North Medford High School. For the past few weeks, I’ve seen the soccer and football teams out practicing in the heat and now the smoke. At what point is the heat too extreme and the smoke too thick for the kids to practice? And who makes that determination? The coaches? The schools? Exercising in those conditions can’t be healthy.

— Susan F., Medford

Susan, coaches depend on the Air Quality Index to tell them when it’s OK for kids to play.

Todd Bloomquist, Medford’s director of secondary education, said coaches are sensitive to the smoke factor and follow OSAA’s guidelines for determining when it’s too hot or too smoky for student-athletes to practice outdoors.

North Medford High School Athletic Director Tim Sam said each coach must check the air quality and temperature within an hour of practice and, depending on the conditions, follow OSAA’s recommendations.

For example, according to the color-coded AQI, the air pollution was orange (hack, hack) or “unhealthy for sensitive groups” on Sunday. When it’s in the orange, OSAA recommends coaches allow for more breaks and reduce the intensity of any activities lasting more than two hours. The association also encourages all participants with respiratory illness to limit their outdoor activities and have inhalers readily available.

Outdoor sporting events would most likely be postponed, delayed or relocated indoors if the air pollution dropped to purple (very unhealthy) or maroon (hazardous). So far this year, there haven't been any practices canceled, Sam said.

Likewise, if temperatures exceed 95 degrees, OSAA rules suggest that coaches consider delaying the contest or practice until later in the day and provide ample amounts of water for athletes.

If temperatures exceed 100 degrees, the contest or practice will likely be rescheduled or canceled.

Send questions to “Since You Asked,” Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by email to youasked@mailtribune.com. We’re sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.