By Julie Rhue, M.Ed., ATC
And so it begins, fall sports tryouts and the end to the unofficial summer for a number of local athletes (and athletic trainers). Before we can make it to the nice cool fall weather, hundreds of athletes, coaches, and athletic trainers have to make it through the heat of late summer and two-a-day practices. Luckily, the Virginia High School League (VHSL) has a six day progression for football coaches to follow for progressing into full pads.
Day 1-3: Helmets only
Day 4-5: Helmets and shoulder pads
Day 6+: Full pads
This can change depending on the weather. Your school athletic trainers are also hard at work making sure there is plenty of water available and monitoring the temperature and humidity so that your athletes stay safe. Here is the humiture/heat index (Temperature and relative humidity) guide that VHSL ATCS follow:
105 degrees or higher: No outside activities
104-95 degrees: Frequent water breaks and no equipment (Helmets, shoulder pads, etc.)
94-90 degrees: Frequent water breaks and monitor athletes and remove equipment during breaks
89 degrees or below: Water breaks every 20-30 minutes
Here are some tips to stay safe during this time of year:
- Hydrate often (even if you aren’t thirsty). Don’t let thirst be your guide because if you are thirsty, then you are already dehydrated! Also make sure you are drinking fluids before and after athletic events. Urine color is a good indicator of how hydrated you are.
- Avoid drinking carbonated beverages, fruit juices, and, for the adults reading this blog, alcohol while out in the heat for extended periods of time. These beverages tend to dehydrate the body.
- Take breaks indoors when you are not at practice or games. This will allow your body a chance to cool down.
- Monitor athletes with Sickle Cell Trait. They are more prone to heat illness
- Wear light weight and light color clothes (if possible).
- Monitor weight before and after practice. Try and get back to pre-practice weight before the next practice. Rapid weight loss is an indicator of dehydration.
Children and older adults are more prone to heat illnesses. They can occur quickly and must be watched carefully in the heat. Below are heat illnesses to watch out for.
- Dehydration: occurs when you lose more fluids that what you take in
- Symptoms include dry mouth, headache, thirst, sleepiness, decreased urine output, dry skin, dizziness, or constipation. Severe dehydration can become a medical emergency.
- Treatment includes hydration. If dehydration is severe than your child may need to have IV fluids at the hospital.
- Heat Cramps: are involuntary muscle contractions, usually caused by electrolyte imbalances, over-exertion, and/or dehydration.
- Treatment includes rest briefly, drink clear juice or an electrolyte-containing sports drink, gentle stretching and massage to the affected muscle. Prolonged heat cramps require medical intervention.
- Heat Exhaustion: occurs when your body is overheating from high heat index and/or prolonged strenuous activity.
- Symptoms include heavy sweating, a weak rapid pulse, cool/moist skin with goose bumps, faintness, dizziness, low blood pressure upon standing, muscle cramps, nausea, and/or headache.
- Treatment includes removing the person away from the heat, drinking fluids (preferably sports drinks with electrolytes), and monitoring the person. If body temperature is 104 degrees or higher then transport them to the hospital immediately. If symptoms worsen or do not improve within one hour then consult your doctor.
- Heat Stroke: Is a medical emergency! Heat stroke occurs when your body temperature reaches 104 degrees or higher. If left untreated this can damage the person’s vital organs and can lead to serious complications or death.
- Symptoms include body temperature of 104 degrees or higher, seizures, lack of sweating, nausea and vomiting, flushed skin, rapid breathing, racing heart rate, headache, confusion, unconsciousness, and/or muscle cramps.
- Treatment includes immediate transportation to the nearest medical facility (Call 911!). Remove from the heat and apply ice packs or cold towels to head, armpits, groin to cool down body temperature until help arrives.
I hope you all have a safe and uneventful start to the fall preseason and new school year!
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