DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – The terrible stretch of triple-digit heat across North Texas is coming at a bad time for area schools and student athletes. With classes starting back up in just a few weeks, kids are gearing up with practices for activities like football and marching band.

But just as these students start spending their days outdoors for practice, North Texas is getting ready to see one of the hottest weeks of the year, and that can lead to some very dangerous situations.

According to a study, more than 9,000 heat-related illnesses occur each year among high school athletes. Almost two-thirds of those illnesses occur in August.

The biggest opponent for practicing athletes is the heat, but coaches say they’re prepared and plan to end outdoor practice sessions before noon. The afternoons will be used to review plays.

There are other factors that can help players too. “Fortunately all of our varsity kids workout throughout the summer,” explained Southlake Carroll Dragon’s Football Coach Hal Wasson. “They keep their bodies in shape and hopefully that will cut off any potential casualty there.”

The American College of Sports Medicine published a round-table consensus statement in 2005 which many junior high and high school coaches use today. It states that many heat-related illness occur in the first four days of practice.

Not even the early morning hours are safe. Temperatures stay in the mid-80s even at 5:00 a.m. and conditions only get hotter throughout the day.

But there are ways to prevent something dangerous from happening. All students should take frequent water breaks – every 10 to 15 minutes – even if they are not thirsty. Avoid drinks with caffeine. And start hydrating early, in the hours leading up to practices.

Also, student athletes should wear lightweight, light-colored clothing, and avoid wearing heavy protective equipment – like football or lacrosse pads – unless necessary when they are on the field.

Coaches and school staff also need to look out for the signs of heat-related illnesses, like nausea, vomiting, incoherence, lightheadedness, excessive fatigue, vision problems and chills.

With some caution and awareness about the potential pitfalls of extreme heat, everyone should be able to hit the practice field safely.