AUSTIN (Nexstar) — Texas students in marching band must now pass a physical to participate. Some districts have already required the exam, but others will be freshly implementing the rules.
Before the band students at Johnson High School practice their choreography, they all take a trip to the doctor.
“Getting them screened so we know they are safe to do this, because we will get their heart rate up, they will be tired, they will be moving and doing a lot so we definitely want them prepared for that,” band director Joey Lucita said.
Under the new University Interscholastic League rules, which took effect Aug. 1, first-year and third-year students need to pass a full physical. High school students must fill out a medical history form for all four years. This applies to athletics and marching band.
The rules also apply to 7th and 8th-grade students.
“Marching band students are out in the heat a lot. Marching band has evolved quite a bit over the last several decades, it’s very strenuous in many cases, and so the UIL has been considering this possibility for a number of years,” UIL music director Dr. Brad Kent said.
Kent explained the conversation first started in the UIL medical advisory committee, then progressed through the statewide organization’s rulemaking process and was voted on by the UIL legislative council in October.
“I think it’s really important,” sophomore tuba player Parker Taylor said. “If someone has a pre-existing condition you don’t know about and you go out into the field in your marching for eight hours in the heat then something serious could happen.”
“Band a lot of times is overlooked a little bit and I think that now that we have marching band has gotten a lot bigger, people are starting to realize oh they’re actually starting to move around a lot, they’re running so it’s time to start getting those kids ready for that and make sure it is safe,” sophomore Kylie Frensley, who plays the flute, said.
Hays CISD has required its band students to pass a physical for a few years. But not all districts are as ahead of the curve. Hutto ISD, for example, is requiring physicals for band members for the first time this year. The high school’s band director estimated 90 percent of bands in Texas would also have a similar experience.
“We don’t have any defined data on how many school districts were already requiring it but we do know that many were,” Kent said.
Kent said schools will keep the paperwork on file. Schools who don’t play by the rules face penalties.
“Any possible rule violation would be considered first and foremost by the region executive committee for music, and that could include something as minor as a private reprimand, it could also include a referral to the UIL state executive committee for consideration of further penalty,” Kent explained.
“It says to me that they want to prevent anything that could potentially happen, especially being out in the heat, being in the summer we want to make sure that people who are at higher risk for passing out or having a heart condition we make sure we keep a close eye on those people,” Baylor Scott & White Health Dr. Fredricka Barr said.
“Now we can get those people that could’ve potentially been missed too,” she mentioned.
“Whenever you do that you wanna make sure that you don’t have any preexisting conditions such as heart disease, history of concussions, history of muscular-skeletal issues that could restrict their movement and how they perform.,” Barr said.
Lucita tries to keep his 115 students practicing inside as much as possible.
“One of the things we have noticed is if we can give them a bit of a temperature break they can focus on stuff that is brand new, and then we will go outside and start developing and getting them acclimated to the heat and the weather and everything outside,” he explained. “In the afternoon when temperatures get really hot we come inside and do music in the afternoon, so to just make sure they are safe and not overheating.”
The Johnson High band members also wear hydration packs when they practice outdoors. “It’s athletics within our world. We are moving, we are going, we are exposed to the heat, we are exposed to those extreme temperatures, The kids cardio, massive workout, carrying the equipment, the sousaphones and the percussion, it is a physical work out,” Lucita said.