As temperatures around Louisiana continue to rise – reaching the triple digits in some areas – it’s important to remind parents, coaches and student athletes of the dangers of heat-related illnesses. There are several types of heat illness, but athletes are specifically at risk of exertional heat stroke, which is caused by intense exercise in the heat.
The LHSAA, in conjunction with its Sports Medicine Advisory Committee, have put together these points of emphasis regarding student-athlete safety:
- It is extremely important to be hydrated before, during, and after practice and/or physical activity.
- When possible, adjust starting times and practice times to avoid the hottest part of the day (usually between 10 AM and 5 PM). If unable to do so, adjust work-to-rest ratios.
- Ensure that appropriate medical treatment equipment (e.g. immersion tub, accurate temperature measurement device, and water/ice) is available and ready for use in the event that an athlete has any heat related illness.
- Ensure that all athletes are weighed in the same clothes (Shorts and T-Shirt) right before and immediately after practice to determine if weight loss occurred during practice. Keep a chart so it is easy to determine the weight loss and percent loss.
- A loss of 1-2% of body weight can hinder performance. There is a significant increase for risk of exertional heat-related illness if the person has a 3% or greater loss of body weight from their pre-workout weight. This is why it is important to be hydrated properly when practice starts. If someone starts practice all ready in a dehydrated state, the problems can happen faster.
- Remember that all athletes sweat at different rates and lose different amounts of salt in the sweat. This can make someone more susceptible to a heat illness different than other athletes.
- Protective equipment (like helmets, shoulder pads, other coverings), and dark or heavy clothing can make someone susceptible to heat illness as it increases body temperature and sweat loss (leading to dehydration).
- Hydration is very important. Make sure you have plenty of water and you may need an electrolyte (6-8% carbohydrate formula is the maximum) sport drink. The electrolyte drink is important if the exercise session is longer than one hour. Make sure there are sufficient hydration breaks for the environment. ENERGY DRINKS are not electrolyte drinks and should not be used for hydration before, during, or after activity.
- Ensure that athletes have access to water and/or sports drinks and are allowed water breaks throughout practice. Athletes should be encouraged to drink fluids throughout practice, and at no point should an athlete be refused fluids. Water should be accessible, bountiful, and chilled, and athletes should have plenty of time to consume it. If athletes become dehydrated, this can completely negate the advantages gained with heat acclimatization.