“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
~ Benjamin Franklin
The prevention of heat illness in athletics is in the best interest of everyone involved. It takes a culture of education, understanding and proactive decision-making by coaches, athletes, parents, schools and athletic trainers in order for this to happen.
Here’s a look at proactive measures to prevent heat illnesses at your school or organization:
- An athlete must have a completed physical examination by a physician prior to beginning any type of participation in sports. This is recommended by many appropriate organizations (NCCSI, NATA, ACSM, NFHCA) and required by the MHSAA.
- Ensure that all sports and coaches follow weather related recommendations for participating in the heat and humidity, including the mandated acclimatization periods before full equipment is worn.
- Monitor weather conditions frequently (temperature, humidity, WBGT) and activate processes for curtailing sessions when required. This includes ending or cancelling sessions due to WBGT readings.
- Be an advocate for changing existing rules to encourage rest and recovery, especially those regarding two-a-days, lengthy sessions (greater than 3 hours at a time) and limit consecutive dates of sessions to 6 or less.
- Have all athletes weigh-in before and after each practice session. Loss of more than 4% to 5% of the recorded pre-practice bodyweight must be replenished prior to participation in the next practice session.
- Ensure that plenty of cold water is readily available for practices & competition. Research has shown that competitors are likely to take in more water when its temperature is cooler (55 – 57 degrees). Encourage the use of sports drinks after practice and during the overnight period to replenish fluids.
- Athletes must have freedom to access fluids during sessions – this may mean water bottles placed at each drill, or the ability to get a drink at any time. Freedom to access means the coaches must also encourage, not discourage athletes to drink fluids and enhance the culture by not punishing, belittling or chastising athletes for asking for fluids. Build into the schedule a 10 – 15 minute water break every 25-30 minutes during hot weather.
- The ability and knowledge of the athletic trainer should be such that immediate decisions and actions are taken to remove an athlete’s gear, move them into an air conditioned environment or possibly more aggressive measures to prevent the progression of heat illness.