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By Meg Barton
Posted On: Dec 04, 2006

Preventing Heat Illness

St. Joseph’s/Candler Sports Medicine

Young people are at higher risk for heat illness, so parents should ensure kids are consuming nutritious foods such as vitamin D and calcium, and drinking adequate amounts of water. Also, acclimatizing to the extreme summer heat will help promote a healthy athlete.

Coaches should be aware of the heat and humidity when conducting practice. An early morning or later evening practice is recommended to prevent heat illness. Shorter hours during the first week (7-14 days) of practice, will allow the athletes to adapt to sweat loss, and the importance of hydration. This is especially important prior to summer camp, when practice is held twice or even three times per day.

Hydration is the key to preventing heat related illness. Water is not enough. Sports drinks like Gatorade helps the athlete stay better hydrated, than water alone. Drinking water and sports drinks before, during and after exercise will help prevent dehydration and heat illness. Many student athletes would prefer to drink sports drinks anyway, due to the taste. Water just doesn't appeal to many athletes. If you want your athletes to stay well hydrated, offer water and sports drinks, before, during and after practices.

Athletic Trainers and Coaches should watch for behavioral risk factors and high-risk athletes. Athletes who have not been sleeping well, athletes who have been recently ill, those who are prone to dehydration (chronic under drinkers on the field), and larger athletes who might be under-fit, overweight and not acclimatized, these athletes are at a higher risk for heat illness than the average athlete.

Players that are dehydrated will fatigue earlier, lose coordination skills and have a higher risk of heat exhaustion, heat illness or heat stroke. Football players need to drink throughout the day whether they are thirsty or not. It is recommended that in-season athletes avoid carbonated drinks, caffeinated drinks and alcohol. Carbonated drinks may cause bloating and decrease the amount of fluid consumed. Caffeinated drinks may cause the body to lose body fluids, especially through urination.

Information derived from

Preventing Heat Illness

Football Coaches Guide to Heat Illness and Hydration

IAFF Local 574
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