Heat Awareness During Sports

At Resurgens Orthopaedics, we think it’s great to see so many people playing sports during the warmer months.  No matter which sport you like to play, it’s important to prevent heat illness.  Here is some information on heat illness to help keep you and your family safe as the temperatures heat up.

Heat Illness

According to the American Society for Sports Medicine, heat-related illness and death are on the rise. Heat stroke, a severe form of heat-related illness, is one of the three leading causes of death in athletes and likely the leading cause among athletes in July and August. Yet heat illness is largely preventable.

What Causes Heat Illness

When you exercise, it causes the body’s temperature to elevate and the body sweats to cool itself down.  This causes body fluids known as electrolytes to be lost.  Dehydration can occur when the body is not replenished with fluids and electrolytes, increasing the risk of heat illness.

Symptoms of Heat Illness

  • Dizziness
  • Dry Mouth
  • Headaches
  • Thirst
  • Chills
  • Weakness
  • Dark Colored Urine

If heat illness progresses, more serious symptoms such as difficulty breathing, body temperature increasing to dangerous levels, muscle cramps, nausea, and tingling of the limbs—and even death—may occur.

How to Prevent Heat Illness

The most effective treatment for heat-related illnesses is prevention, including:

  • Proper training for the heat
  • Fluid replacement before, during and after exertion
  • Appropriate clothing—light colored, loose fitting and limited to one layer
  • Early recognition via direct monitoring of athletes by other players, coaches and medical staff
  • Monitoring the intensity of physical activity appropriate for fitness and the athlete's ability to adapt to the temperature, humidity, etc.
  • If possible, having an athletic trainer on site during events and practices to properly prevent and treat heat illnesses
  • At the beginning of a strenuous exercise program or after traveling to a warmer climate, an athlete should: 1) initially limit the intensity and duration of exercise; 2) gradually increase it during a period of 7-14 days to allow time for the body to adjust to the new climate and environmental conditions.
  • Athletes with respiratory, gastrointestinal or other illness should be evaluated before exercise, as these conditions increase the risk of heat illness.

When Should an Athlete Hydrate?

  • Begin hydration before you exercise.  Drink 16 ounces of water or sports drink one hour before exertion.  Continue to drink 4-8 ounces of fluid every 15-20 minutes as long as exertion continues.

  • The type of fluid you should drink depends on the length of the activity: a) Water is sufficient for activities lasting less than one hour; b) For activities lasting longer than one hour or multiple events in one day, choose a sports drink.  They contain carbohydrates, sodium and potassium to help replenish the body.

How Can Heat Illnesses be Treated?

Signs and symptoms of heat illness or heat stroke can be a life-threatening emergency.  Have someone call 911 for immediate medical assistance.  In addition, someone should begin cooling the individual at risk.  Treatment tips include:

  • Get the athlete to a shaded area
  • If it is heat stroke, cool the athlete rapidly by placing them in a cold water bath.  If that is not available, use spray from a hose, cold water sponging or placing cold towels over the entire body.
  • Monitoring body temperature
  • Providing cool beverages if possible (for example, if the athlete does not have altered consciousness).

We hope the information in this blog helps you stay safe this summer during your outdoor sports activities. If you suffer an orthopaedic injury while you train, call Resurgens Orthopaedics or schedule an appointment online; our physicians will help get you back to the sport you love.