Healthy Living: Organized Sports- Considerations in the Heat 

By: Dr. Amy MoviusThis week, many schools are starting preseason training for fall sports and the weather has been hot and humid. With these conditions, it is very important to be aware of the potential for climatic heat stress, especially as some of these kids will be abruptly increasing their activity after a leisurely summer break.Heat-related illness happens when the body has increased heat production (as with exercise) and/or a decreased ability to transfer heat to the environment (think uniforms/ sports equipment). It can be fatal and treatment to decrease body temperature should begin as soon as any symptom(s) are recognized. So what are the symptoms? An early one is cramping. Heat exhaustion, which happens when the body has lost too much water and salt, can occur next. Persons with heat exhaustion sweat profusely and have cold, pale, and clammy skin. Heat stroke is the most extreme type of heat-related illness and happens because the body temperature is so high that cells are damaged. Persons with heat stroke are red and hot with dry skin, and confusion. Though heat and humidity are beyond human control, there are lots of other ways to prevent heat illness in child athletes. A summary of recommendations from the AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics) is as follows:1. Everyone in leadership positions for youth sports should emphasize awareness, education, and implementation of heat illness risk-reduction strategies to all staff that oversee/ assist with these sports.2. Capable staff and treatment facilities readily should be readily available.3. Young athletes should be educated on proper sports preparation, prehydration/hydration, honest reporting of any symptoms, and other issues such as getting enough recovery time and rest to reduce their risk of heat stress.4. Athletes should be given an opportunity to acclimatize to preseason practice and conditioning in the heat, typically over a 2 week period. There are specific guidelines for American youth football available.5. Appropriate fluids should be readily accessible to athletes and consumed at regular intervals before, during and after exercising.6. Activity should be modified based on the degree of heat. This can include lowering intensity, shortening duration, and/or increasing breaks during practice sessions. 7. Athletes should avoid or limit participation when ill or recovering from illness.8. Athletic staff needs to receive training in how to monitor athletes for signs and symptoms of heat illness. They should be directed to immediately stop sport participation and start treatment of any individual they suspect may have any of these signs or symptoms. 9. Any athlete with symptoms of heat illness should not resume activity that day.10. An emergency action plan should be clearly in place.11. There should be at least 2 hours of rest between separate events occurring on the same day.12. In extremely hot conditions, sessions should be canceled or rescheduled.For more information on heat related illnesses, please consider the references below.1. Climatic Heat Stress and Exercising Children and Adolescents. Council On Sports Medicine and Fitness and Council on School Health Pediatrics 2011: 128:e741, Luke et al.2. Heat Injury Prevention Practices in High School Football. Clin J Sport Med. 2007:17(6):488-493, Jardine. 3. Heat Illness and Heat Stroke. Pediatrics in Review 2007:28:249-2584. – Heat Related Illness