With the temperature starting to rise, the concern for heat related illness also starts to rise.
There are three different types of heat illnesses: heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke. Heat cramps are when the muscles begin to cramp during activity. Heat exhaustion is when the athlete experiences sudden fatigue, possible nausea and vomiting, and profuse sweating. Often times their face will be pale and skin would be moist to the touch. The athlete’s pulse can be weak or rapid and show no changes in level of consciousness.
Heat stroke is a true medical emergency and your schools emergency action plan needs to be followed immediately. Heat stroke occurs when the thermoregulatory system, which controls the balance of one’s internal temperature, shuts down.
The athlete’s face will appear red and flushed and their skin will be hot and dry. The athlete may have a strong and rapid pulse. The athlete may also show changes in their level of consciousness.
As an athlete, it is important to help prevent heat illnesses. During a hot and humid practice, an athlete may lose 5 to 10 pounds of water fluid weight. It is important for the athlete to regain the fuild weight prior to their next practice. One strategy is to properly hydrate and drink 34 oz. of cold water two hours prior to practice. Fifteen minutes before practice, you should drink 13-17 oz. of cold water.
Then, once practice begins, you should be consuming 13-17 oz. of cold water every 30 minutes. You should avoid carbonated and caffeinated drinks, as they will dehydrate you more. During practice, you should wear comfortable, loose, light colored clothing that is not heavy. Your coach should adjust the practice schedule on days the temperature and humidity is expected to rise to into the high ranges.
Let the team athletic trainers know or other medical professionals on the field know if you feel uneasy, lightheaded or overheated so you can be removed from play or treated properly. For “two-a-day” practices, athletes should be allowed two or three hours of uninterrupted rest in between practices to assist with hydration. This resting time allows food, fluids, nutrients, and electrolytes to move into the small intestine and bloodstream before starting the next practice.
When a student athlete suffers from a heat illness, they should be removed from participation immediately and immediate cooling and hydration started. To treat heat cramps, the athlete should drink water or sports drink, gently stretch, and apply ice. For heat exhaustion, the athlete needs to replace their fluids and should be moved out of the heat, into a shaded area. Ice packs can be applied to the athletes neck, armpits, groin, and behind the knee.
When an athlete is showing symptoms of heat stroke, 911 should be called immediately, immerse in a cold tub if available and moved to a shaded area, drink cold fluids, if possible, and remove excessive clothing.
Ryan Satira is a student at Penn Trafford High School writing for Channel One in cooperation with the National Athletic Trainers’ Association. Students from Penn Trafford will contribute to our blog from time to time on issues student athletes face.