The heat is on baby! Whether it is summer sports or preparation time for the upcoming fall sports season the name of the game is keeping cool and hydrated to avoid heat injuries. This is especially important for the high school athlete.
According to a study done by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) heat illness during practice and competition is a leading cause of disability and death in high school athletes. On average, the CDC reports approximately 9,200 incidents of heat related injuries per year with football players suffering injury at a rate approximately 10 times above the average.
A Look at Heat Related Injuries
When temperatures soar, the body sometimes cannot produce enough sweat to effectively cool the core. A lack of proper hydration can even cause the body to quit producing sweat, leading to possible heat injury.
The first heat injury to look at is heat cramps. Heat cramps are marked by pain and spasms in the large muscle groups. Heat cramps are caused by exercise that drains the body of fluids, minerals and electrolytes. If one player is suffering from heat cramps, chances are you will have more. Left untreated and properly monitored heat cramps can easily progress to heat exhaustion.
Heat exhaustion is when there is heavy sweating, nausea and/or vomiting and possible dizziness in the person. Heat exhaustion can rapidly deteriorate to heat stroke. If you suspect a player is suffering from heat exhaustion, treat quickly and aggressively.
Heat stroke is a true medical emergency. Heat stroke is characterized by hot, red skin. There is a lack of perspiration but the skin can be moist from exertion. There can be a change in consciousness. The pulse can be rapid and weak. The breathing can be rapid and shallow. The bodies core temperature can also be elevated to dangerous levels. Heat stroke can be life threatening. If you suspect one of your players is suffering from heat stroke, cal 911 immediately.
Treatment of Heat Emergencies
The easiest way to treat heat emergencies is through prevention. Frequent breaks and water is the key. Keep away from caffeinated and drinks that contain alcohol. Have an area that is shaded for rest. If possible, have a hose or sprinkler set up to help the athlete cool.
If a player is suffering from heat cramps, get them to the rehab area. Gently massage and stretch the affected area. Have the player drink water, about 8 ounces every 15 minutes.
With heat exhaustion, get the person to the rehab area. Loosen any clothing. Wet them down or apply moist towels. If they can tolerate it, have them drink 8 ounces of water every 15 minutes. This athlete needs to be monitored closely for any deterioration in their condition.
As I stated above, heat stroke is a true medical emergency. If you suspect heat stroke, call 911 immediately. Move the person to a cool place and remove sweat soaked clothing. Cool the athlete by fanning. Place ice packs or cool towels in the groin, armpit, wrist and neck areas. Monitor the person’s condition closely until the arrival of medical help.