SUNRISE SUMMIT – If you happen to stop by a soccer or football practice this summer, you might see a black tripod positioned at the 50-yard line. 

This tripod has a black fin that allows the wind to determine its position and an orange device attached that can fit in the palm of your hand.

Depending on the weather circumstances, this thing might even be beeping.

What’s this thing doing on the middle of the field during practice?

“We use the Kestrel in the center of whatever surface we are playing on, whether it’s the turf or the practice fields,” explained athletic trainer Kari Briggs about the new device.

A Kestrel is a wet bulb globe thermometer that measures the heat stress in direct sunlight and takes into account temperature, humidity, wind speed, sun angle and cloud cover.

The need to protect student-athletes from heat related illness has been a priority for athletic trainers across the state.

Kari Briggs, HHS athletic trainer, along with 6 other athletic trainers in West Virginia, presented to the WVSSAC that the heat index being used to assess conditions was not adequate.

“Scales needed to be more in line with the region,” stated Briggs.

Although the cost of purchasing several Kestrels for each school was expensive, the West Virginia Athletic Trainer Association teamed up with the Korey Stringer Institute to help the  SSAC find a grant to purchase the items. 

“Every middle school and high school that has athletics received a cold immersion tub and 2 Kestrels,” said Briggs. 

In August 2001, Minnesota Vikings offensive lineman Korey Stringer passed away from exertional heat stroke. Since Korey’s death, his wife Kelci has developed an exertional heat stroke prevention institute to honor her husband’s legacy.

The best way to prevent heat-related illnesses is to implement the best technology available and the Kestrel is the ideal option to evaluate weather conditions.

“The Kestrel is the gold standard,” said Briggs.

“This is new for 2022. In the past I have used the heat index, but now that we have this it gives us more reliability.”

This tool isn’t just for sports played on the turf, it’s for all outdoor sports and those indoor sports that don’t have air conditioning.

“The wet bulb globe thermometer takes into account temperature, humidity, wind speed and other factors, puts it in a formula and provides a ‘real feel’ temperature,” said Briggs.

The National Athletic Trainers’ Association provides some guidelines based on the WBGT temperature and provides appropriate activities and rest breaks given the conditions.

Overall, the most important aspect of this new technology is to prevent heat illness and keep kids safe. o

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