Preventing Heat-Related Injuries in Student Athletes
The heat has definitely been on this summer across much of the United States. Heat advisories continue in much of the central United States as football players begin their two-a-day workouts.
In Arkansas two high school football players, one from Lamar and the other from Little Rock, have been hospitalized due to heat related illnesses experienced during practice.
The state Health Department of Arkansas reports 10 heat-related deaths, including a toddler who died after being left in a locked car for several hours.
While all young athletes are vulnerable to heat-related illness, football players practicing in full protective gear are especially susceptible. Anyone who has been ill or had a previous heat-related illness is also more vulnerable.
Preventing heat injuries
As for folks of all ages, the best defense is prevention when it come to heat-related illness.
- Never leave a child or pet in a hot car.
- Drink more fluids (nonalcoholic), no matter what your activity level. Don't wait until you're thirsty to drink.
- Wear lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing.
- Try to rest often in shady areas.
- Limit your outdoor activity to the cooler morning and evening hours.
- Ease into strenuous activity. It takes the body up to two weeks of activity in hot weather to be ready for full work-outs in the heat.
- Schedule your strenuous activity during the coolest time of the day. Ask if practice can start earlier in the morning or later in the evening.
- Monitor how you feel. If you have difficulty maintaining your regular pace, slow down. Don’t be afraid to tell your coach you need a break.
- Athletes who are at a high risk for heat-related illness should be weighed before and after practice to determine how much body water they've lost.
- Athletes should be encouraged to sleep at least six to eight hours a night in a cool environment.
Parents be aware of how your children respond to the heat. Parents and coaches should learn the signs and symptoms of heat-related illnesses. Teach them to the student athletes. Dry or sticky mouth, headache, dizziness and cramps are early signs of heat illness. Symptoms may also include muscle and abdominal cramps, heavy (or worse – have stopped) sweating, and nausea / vomiting.
Arkansas Department of Health