We’re gearing up for fall sports. Hopefully we’re gearing you up too! Some folks have started their football camps already! You know we’re ready for football!
We beat you over the head a few weeks ago with information about the dangers of concussion. As we see our little folks run around in this oppressive August heat we thought we’d share some information about the dangers of excessive exposure to the heat.
There have already been some reports this year of young players suffering from the heat. In a few tragic cases death has resulted.
There are a few degrees of heat exposure. Heat cramp, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke. At first your body begins to cramp, you will lose your ability to regulate your body temperature, your internal temperature could rise as high as 106, and then it begins to get deadly. If an athlete experiences nausea, blurred vision, or confusion then he or she is in serious trouble and needs immediate medical attention.
The first thing that you want to secure is access to water. Clean, fresh water. A responsible organization will provide coolers full of it. It should be readily accessible and frequent breaks should be provided to hydrate. As we sweat we lose valuable sodium and electrolytes and certain sports drinks can help to replace these. Read your label, though, as certain “sports” drinks contain caffeine and other not so healthy things. These troublemakers are in there to provide quick energy but they speed up metabolism and can exaggerate the effects of heat. This is also something to be aware of in any medications that the player is taking. Meds for asthma and allergies often contain bronchodilators, which can speed up the metabolism.
Many foods contain a lot of water. Most fruits, like watermelon, are mostly water. Look also for food and snacks that are mineral-rich and loaded with good salts and some easy carbs for energy.
There is a rare but deadly consequence of too much water: hyponatremia. This is an imbalance in the levels of sodium and fluids in the body. If a player has been sweating heavily and then ingests large amounts of fluid without balancing the amount of sodium the cells of the body will swell. This becomes deadly as the brain cells swell, as the skull doesn’t give the brain a lot of room to move around.
When is the coach holding practice? Be aware that the majority of heat incidents occur during the first couple of days of practice. Players need to get acclimated to the heat. Just because they’ve been at the beach or chasing sprinklers all summer doesn’t mean they’re ready for a full-out with pads practice. You should also become a weather expert! You can create your own heat index to decide how you want your player to participate. A good and easy rule of thumb is to do the “Sum” equation. Look at the weather and add the temperature to the humidity. If it’s 85 degrees and the relative humidity is 70% you have a sum of 155. Good to practice but keep your eyes open. As you get above a Sum of 160 you need to be really vigilant. If it gets up to 180 you should encourage the organization to cancel or reschedule the event. A smart coach will try to get most activities going early in the morning so that most strenuous activity is done before the afternoon heat really kicks in.
Uniform also plays a role. Is the coach going full-pads? Shorts and fishnet jerseys are good. For football or other sports requiring helmets they should be used sparingly and sunscreen is still a must. If a shirt or jersey becomes too wet due to sweat it should be changed as this will trap heat.
Most of all: watch. Learn the warning signs and monitor the practice! Fall sports are fun but they don’t need to be dangerous!