As we enter into preparation for fall sports, teams of young athletes are beginning practices. While we can’t control our southern climate, there are several decisions we can make to ensure a safe season for all participants. The number of heat related deaths in adolescent athletes has doubled since 1995. As parents, coaches and providers, we want our children to enjoy the benefits of sports, but we have to maintain an awareness of what is safe and appropriate.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) released updated guidelines in August of 2011 regarding heat safety in exercising youth. The AAP’s position is outdoor sports and physical activities in the heat are safe for most healthy children and adolescents if they receive adequate preparation, modifications, and monitoring. Heat illness in young athletes is completely preventable if coaches and other adults take some precautionary measures. Individual athletes may require more or less concern based on their conditioning and overall health status.
Risk factors for heat illness to be considered include; poor hydration, excessive physical exertion, insufficient recovery time between practices or rounds of competition, and wearing clothing or protective equipment that retains excessive heat. Individual consideration needs to be given to participants that are overweight, recent recovery from viral illness or diarrhea, poor physical fitness, insufficient rest, and chronic physical conditions.
Before, during, and after exercise, drinking fluids should be readily available and their consumption encouraged at regular intervals. Generally about 8 oz. of water before activity, and 8oz. of water every 20 minutes. For longer-duration activities, electrolyte-supplemented fluids (sports drinks) should be given to hydrate in addition to water.
Athletes should gradually be introduced and be permitted to adapt to the climate before the use of protective gear, and an increase in intensity and duration of activities.
Activities should be modified as necessary by reducing duration and/or intensity, increasing frequency and duration of breaks, moving to shaded area if possible, and canceling or rescheduling activities if the weather is severe.
Longer rest and recovery times should be permitted between same day sessions (at least 2 hours).
Youth who are currently or who were recently ill, and those with other risks factors should be limited or declined in their participation during hot weather.
Participants should be closely monitored for signs and symptoms of developing heat related illness.
Educate athletes about signs and symptoms to recognize and act upon.
Coaches, trainers and other adults should receive risk-reduction training.
Participants with moderate or severe heat –related stress should promptly receive emergency medical services and rapid cooling.
Trained personnel and facilities to effectively treat heat illness should be readily available on site.
Ways to Prevent Heat Illnesses:
Drink at least 8 oz. of water before exercise, and every 20 minutes during activity. Longer-duration activities may require electrolyte-supplement fluids to optimize hydration. Be sure to continue fluid intake after activity as well.
Drinks should be kept cold and available.
Wear loose-fitting, light color clothing.
Educate children about preparing for the heat and signs of heat illness.
Have cold towels available to cool down with.
Reschedule activities to a cooler time and/or use shaded areas when at all possible.
Frequent rest breaks.
Condition and Sign or Symptom of Heat Illness:
Exercise-Associated Muscle (Heat) Cramps: Dehydration, Thirst, Sweating, Fatigue, Transient Muscle Cramps.
Heat Syncope: Dehydration, Fatigue, Tunnel Vision, Pale or Sweaty Skin, Decreased Heart Rate, Dizziness, Lightheadedness, Fainting.
Exercise (Heat) Exhaustion: Normal or Elevated Body-Core Temperature, Dehydration, Dizziness, Lightheadedness, Syncope (fainting or passing out), Headache, Nausea, Anorexia, Diarrhea, Decreased Urine Output, Persistent Muscle Cramps, Pale Coloring, Profuse Sweating, chills, Cool/Clammy Skin, Stomach Cramps, Weakness, Rapid Breathing.
Please review the above information with your children that will be participating in outdoor activities, and keep these recommendations in mind when planning events. For more information on health related issues please contact your health care provider.
The Anson County Health Department provides sports physicals for athletes as well as college and employment exams. For more information on services provided by the health department, or to schedule an appointment, please call 704-694-5188.