Heat Stress Safety for athletes is a major concern during the summer months. Every year, young athletes die senselessly because proper steps are not taken to prevent something that is completely preventable. High School athletic associations are all very quick to adopt policies; however, they are slow to embrace those policies.
Kids are spending more time indoors in the air conditioning so when summer practices start, most student athletes are not prepared for the intense heat of summer conditioning. Athletes need to be slowly introduced to the heat so it is not a shock to their body. Coaches also need to make sure that each athlete has a physical exam with a medical history, and they need to make sure that they know the general physical condition for each athlete that participates in any kind of high temperature workouts. You can not assume that each player has the same conditioning level. If a coach forces someone to go above and beyond what their body is prepared for, it could cause major physical harm to the student athlete. Paying attention to the humidity level during each practice is also a very important factor for coaches to consider. The higher the humidity, the more difficult it is for the body to cool itself.
Some of the issues that student athletes face include:
Heat cramps which are usually considered the least serious and the earliest symptom of heat related illnesses; however, they can be very painful and should not be taken lightly. Heat cramps usually affect the major muscles that are being stressed in a hot environment. Treatment for heat craps includes hydration, rest, cooling, and stretching the muscles that are cramping.
Heat Syncope is a form of heat illness that often results from physical activity. Heat Syncope occurs when the body dilates the blood vessels in effort to cool the body; this causes blood flow to be reduced to the brain which can result in fainting. Some of the symptoms of heat syncope include: dizziness or lightheadedness, loss of consciousness, pale or sweaty skin, weakness, tunnel vision, and decreased/weak pulse. When someone is experiencing Heat Syncope, move the person to a shaded area. During onset of symptoms sit or lay down, monitor vital signs, elevate legs to promote blood flow to heart, and drink lots of water or some kind of sports beverage.
Heat Exhaustion– There are two different types of Heat Exhaustion: salt depletion and water depletion. Signs of water depletion include feeling weak, headache, excessive thirst, weight loss, elevated skin and core body temperature, and loss of consciousness. Signs of salt depletion include exhaustion, nausea, vomiting, muscle cramps, and dizziness.
- First Aid for Heat Exhaustion
- call 911
- move person away from heat
- lay person down and elevate legs
- remove tight fitting clothing
- drink water
- use a cool vest
- monitor person until help arrives
- Symptoms of Heat Exhaustion
- cool, moist skin with goose bumps when in the heat
- heavy sweating
- weak, rapid pulse
- low blood pressure when standing
- muscle cramps
Heat Stroke is a condition marked by fear and unconsciousness caused by failure of the body’s temperature regulating system when exposed to excessively high temperatures. This is considered a medical emergency and you should call 911 and provide first aid until help arrives.
- Symptoms of Heat Stroke
- body temperature greater than 104 degrees Fahrenheit
- altered mental state:
- slurred speech
- nausea and vomiting
- flush skin
- increased heart rate
- rapid breathing
- Risk Factors for heat stroke
- under the age of 4 years or above the age of 65 years
- lack of hydration
- humidity around 60 percent
- on antihistamines
- on diet pills
- blood pressure medications
- Preventing heat stroke
- wear lightweight clothing
- use sunscreen with more then SPF 30
- drink extra fluids
- First aid for heat stroke
- move person to an air-conditioned environment or use a heat stress safety kit
- get persons core body temperature down to 101-102 degrees Fahrenheit
- use a heat stress safety kit
- use garden hose and spray down victim
- if possible, get victim to a tub of ice water
This is all very important information for a coach or anyone who is overseeing activity where the body can overheat. Being prepared for this type of emergency can go a long way in determining weather someone lives or dies. It is crucial to always be ready for a situation like this. People’s lives count on it.