This Friday my son starts his “Fall Ball” Baseball season and I know that since he is a young athlete he may be at greater risk for heat-related illnesses that can be prevented. Water simply isn’t enough. So I make sure that he has plenty of Gatorade for before, during, and after the game or practice. Gatorade supplies the proper amount of fluid, electrolytes and carbohydrates to rapidly put back what your young athlete loses in sweat and provides energy to keep them going. You can help- download a free Gatorade Heat Safety Kit found at www.nfl.com/trainingcamp. For every unique download Gatorade will donate $1 to “Beat the Heat” charities up to $20,000. Gatorade and the NFL have teamed up to offer you the following BEAT THE HEAT FACT SHEET:
Preventing Heat-Related Illnesses
Heat Illness and Emergencies
Heat-related illnesses have many factors involved but can be caused when an individual is subjected to extreme temperatures and humidity and is unable to cool down. Dehydration also can be a factor. Dehydration makes it more difficult for the body to function properly and takes a toll on an athletes’ performance.
Causes of Heat Emergencies
Primary contributors to heat-related emergencies include:
- Heat and high humidity
- Extreme physical exertion
- Layered or rubberized clothing
- Inadequate fluid intake
Risk for Young Athletes
Children may be less tolerant of heat stress than adults and may be at greater risk for heat illness
Warning Signs – What to Look For
Without taking precautionary measures, young athletes might experience a heat-related illness. In some cases, they might be unaware they are experiencing this condition and continue practicing. Make sure your child knows the signs of heat-related illness and encourage his/her coach to periodically check players during practice or workouts for the acute warning signs of heat illness, which can include:
- Poor concentration
- Flushed skin
- Light headedness
- Loss of muscle coordination
Equipment Makes a Difference
- Encourage young athletes to wear net-type jerseys
- As they acclimate to the heat, athletes should wear T-shirts and shorts, not pads
- Remind athletes to remove helmets when not playing or scrimmaging and avoid wearing sweatshirts and excess clothing
- Young athletes should change sweat-soaked clothing as soon as possible after activity
- Flavored, cold, lightly salted and/or sports drinks like Gatorade improve voluntary fluid replacement by players, especially the younger athletes.
- Athletes need to think about hydration before, during and after physical activity. A player should be fully hydrated before beginning practice or competition. Fluids lost through sweat and breathing should be replaced by fluid consumption including during workouts, practices and games (physical activity).
- During activity, players should have unrestricted access to appropriate fluids. Thirst is a late indicator of the need to hydrate. Dehydration has occurred once thirst is turned on.
- The best approach, particularly in hot environments, is to have players weigh in and out each day to help determine adequate fluid replacement needs. Following a competition or workout, the coach should have players weigh out and drink enough to match their weight loss. Remember 16 ounces is one pound. For each pound that the player did not replace, the player may need to consume 20-24 ounces to fully rehydrate for the next training session.
Types of Heat Illnesses
- Heat Cramps: Some athletes may experience heat cramps. This type of cramp is the tightening and spasms experienced in large muscle groups (e.g. quadriceps, hamstrings, etc.). It is often preceded by heavy sweating and large electrolyte losses. If a young athlete is experiencing heat cramps, he or she should stop the activity, find a cool spot to gently stretch and massage the muscle and drink appropriate fluids like sports drinks that contain important electrolytes including sodium.
- Heat Exhaustion: Another type of heat illness is heat exhaustion. Signs and symptoms of this problem can include profuse sweating, dehydration, fatigue, lightheadedness, rapid pulse and low blood pressure. Body temperature may be slightly elevated. If heat exhaustion is suspected, the child should lie in a cool place with legs elevated, have cool, wet towels applied to the body, drink cool fluids and have someone monitor their vital signs. With heat exhaustion, often the ill athlete feels better when he or she rests in a cool place and replenishes fluids by drinking cool liquids. Continue to monitor the athlete. If signs are present that the illness is severe or progressing, activate the emergency action plan and follow these emergency action steps, Check-Call-Care. Check the player for signs. Call 911 or the local emergency number immediately. Have someone administer your emergency care plan.
- Heat Stroke: This is the most serious heat-related illness. With heat stroke an athlete will have a high body temperature – 104° F or higher – and could have red, hot, dry or moist skin, vomit, be incoherent or lose consciousness, have shallow breathing and/or a weak pulse. He or she might experience mild shock, convulsions, a coma and can die from heat stroke. If he or she goes into respiratory or cardiac arrest, an adult should begin rescue breathing or CPR, as appropriate. Cool by any means possible, as quickly as possible. Keep an ice bath or “cool pool” nearby so emergency personnel can decide whether to immerse the player. If necessary, trained medical personnel should place the player in an ice bath while monitoring core body temperature and call for emergency medical services (EMS). Continue to cool and monitor the player while awaiting EMS.
What You Should Know if You Coach Youth Sports
Lots of moms are out there coaching, assistant coaching and serving the important role of “team mom” and should know the following steps to help prevent heat-related illnesses:
- Allow 10-14 days of light activity in the heat for adjusting to warmer climate/temperatures.
- Schedule practice during cooler times of day.
- Remind players to hydrate throughout the day. Coaches and parents should teach athletes how to monitor their hydration levels by checking the volume, frequency and color of their urine. If they are hydrated, their urine should look like lemonade. If their urine looks dark, like apple juice, they may need to drink more fluids.
- Encourage athletes to weigh in and out before and after practices to determine individual fluid losses. (See “After” section for more details).
- Schedule and enforce frequent drink breaks and rest periods during physical activity
- Remove pads and practice in T-shirts and shorts.
- Reduce intensity and/or length of training with high temperatures and/or humidity.
- When it comes to keeping athletes safe on the field, water may not be enough. While water is fundamental to the body, it does not hydrate as effectively and as a properly as formulated sports drink with sodium.
- Ask athletes to buddy up during practice with a teammate to monitor for warning signs of heat illness.
- Overexposure to high temperature and humidity can cause heat-related illnesses. The National Weather Service issues heat alerts when the daytime heat index (a combination of temperature and humidity) is 105° F or more, which can dramatically increase the risk of the most serious heat-related illnesses. At 80-105° F, fatigue and heat stroke are also possible with prolonged exposure. Athletes playing in the heat for long periods of time wearing protective padding are especially at risk.
- Be prepared by having an ice-filled tub ready for immersing a player in case of an emergency. Carry a cell phone on the field at all times. Know the precise address of the practice or game field and any specific directions required by EMS responders. Remember to cool first before trying to transport the athlete.
- Weigh athletes following practice and compare to their weight beforehand to determine fluid losses. Coaches should monitor athletes to ensure they replace every pound lost during practice with approximately 20 ounces of fluid.
***I wrote this review while participating in a blog campaign by Mom Central on behalf of Gatorade’s “Beat the Heat” campaign and received Gatorade samples to facilitate my candid review. Mom Central sent me a gift card to thank me for taking the time to participate.***