In South Louisiana, the heat and humidity often reach dangerous levels. Unfortunately, football and cross-country athletes are training during the hottest time of the year, making them especially susceptible to heat illnesses.
Thibodaux Regional’s Sports Medicine Center Coordinator, Larry D’Antoni, LAT, ATC, works with local high school teams as an athletic trainer. He educates the coaches and players on the risks, warning signs and life-saving techniques associated with heat illnesses. “It’s important for all athletes and coaches to be educated on heat illness, regardless of their age or level of play,” says D’Antoni.
Tips to Avoid Heat Illnesses:
• A coach should assess the fitness level of each athlete and tweak exercises to match the level of conditioning of the participant.
• Athletes should wear appropriate, light colored clothing and avoid layering. Sweat will evaporate better on exposed skin and allow cooling.
• Athletes should take frequent breaks, approximately every 30 minutes. A break is defined as a resting period of three to five minutes where the athlete is off of his feet and in the shade. Water or sports drinks should be used to hydrate during breaks.
• Hydration is extremely important.
• Cold towels applied to the head help to lower the body temperature quickly.
“As far as hydration is concerned, a good rule of thumb is to drink one ounce of water for every two pounds of body weight. For example, if you weigh 200 pounds, drink 100 ounces of water every 24 hours. If you are involved in heavy exercise, your intake should increase depending upon the amount of weight lost,” explains D’Antoni.
Pre-hydration is also very important as well as post-activity hydration.
• Warning Signs of Heat Illness:
• Blurry Vision
• Abdominal Cramps
• Nausea and Vomiting
It is important for the athlete to know the warning signs and speak up if they think they may be experiencing a symptom of a heat illness. The process of rehydrating the body should begin as soon as possible. “In addition to the other warning signs, if you stop sweating, you are depleted/dehydrated and all activity should stop”, says D’Antoni. “When your core body temperature rises, you are burning up on the inside and that could be fatal.”
The athlete needs to be cooled down immediately, on site. These items are regularly used to monitor the heat and manage heat stroke, if it does occur:
· Immersion tank – Ice water immersion to lower core body temperature
· Rectal thermometer – Used to measure core body temperature
· Wet Bulb Globe Temperature (WBGT) Thermometer – A measure of heat stress determined by temperature and humidity.
· Tarp – Similar to immersion tank for lowering core body temperature
If an athlete has a heat episode, they need to allow time for their body to recuperate before returning to practice with the team. Excessive weight loss due to dehydration can be identified by the athlete participating in before and after workout weigh-ins. If the athlete loses more than 3% of their body weight during a workout, they may need to sit out of practice until it is regained, since the weight loss is water weight and a sign that the body is dehydrated.
To find out more about heat safety in sports, please contact Thibodaux Regional’s Sports Medicine Center at 985-493-4502 or visit www.thibodaux.com.