Heat Illness in Athletics

Heat Illness in Athletics
Summer has arrived in Minnesota!  Many Minnesotans look at the summer weather as a great opportunity to increase their activity level to improve their overall health.  Summer team sports are in full swing with area youth busy competing in activities such as baseball, softball, and soccer.  With all of these activities taking place in warm weather people need to be aware of heat illnesses including how to prevent, recognize, and treat these conditions.

Heat illnesses can be divided up into several categories.  Below are 3 classifications from mild heat rash/cramps to life threatening heat stroke along with their signs and symptoms and first steps in treatment.

Heat Rash and Heat Cramps
Signs and Symptoms
Dehydration
Thirst
Sweating
Muscle Cramps
Fatigue

Treatment
Stop activity
Replace lost fluids with sodium-containing fluids
Stretch muscles
Heat Exhaustion

Signs and Symptoms
Normal or elevated body-core temperature
Dehydration
Dizziness
Lightheadedness
Headache
Nausea
Diarrhea
Decreased urine output
Chills
Clamy skin
Weakness

Treatment
Stop activity
Remove athlete from warm environment if possible
Remove excess clothing
Cool body with ice and/or fans
Replace lost fluids with sodium-containing fluids

Heat Stroke

Signs and Symptoms
High body-core temperature (>104 deg F)
Dizziness
Drowsiness
Irrational behavior
Confusion
Emotional instability
Staggering
Seizures
Loss of consciousness
Low blood pressure
Hyperventilation

Treatment
Activate EMS
Remove excess clothing
Reduce body core temperature as fast as possible by cold water submersion
Monitor vital signs

Recognizing these signs and symptoms are important, but prevention is what I believe is the most beneficial.  Unfortunately it sometimes takes a tragedy for proper emphasis to be placed on a topic.  This tragedy occurred close to home when Minnesota Vikings player Korey Stringer died of heat stroke following a preseason practice in 2001.  Since that time a number of guidelines have been created to decrease the risk of athletes developing severe heat illnesses. The National Athletic Trainers’ Association created a position statement back in 2002 in regards to practice/playing recommendations with increasing temperatures and humidity.  Many organizations have now adopted policies to ensure that their athletes are appropriately protected against heat illnesses.  The Minnesota State High School League recently further revised their policy for early season practices to allow for a greater heat acclimatization period for football participants.  Beginning this August high school football participants will be required to go through a 14 day step-by-step heat acclimatization period leading up to the first scrimmage or game.
In summary, enjoy the great summer weather our state offers, but take steps to avoid heat related illness.  Prepare by drinking plenty of water and wear appropriate clothing that allows for skin cooling.  Also be aware of the signs and symptoms and how to manage the various stages of heat illness.
Dustin Eslinger, M.A., ATC
Athletic Trainer
Physical Therapy Consultants, Inc.

July 7th, 2015

Posted In: General

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