Parents can help their children avoid heat-related issues when playing sports is an excellent article by John Doherty, ATC, PT.
We’d like to add:
Has your child had a proper sports physical? This is rarely a requirement in league/club sports. Here are some specific preparticipation heat question:
Has your child had any heat issues in the past like feeling sick, throwing up, dizzy, lack of energy, decreased performance, muscle cramps?
Has your child been diagnosed with a heat illness (heat exhaustion, heat stroke)?
Does your child have sickle cell trait? Is there a family history of cardiac issues?
Is your child taking antibiotics or just finished taking antibiotics? Any other medications?
Has your child acclimated to the heat before starting an outside sport or strength & conditioning program?
Has your child been training (or at least physically active) the last few months?
Has your child had a preparticipation sports examination?
Does your child drink water regularly?
Does the sports organization have a heat plan and have the coaches been trained?
Has your child trained outside in the heat before starting practices in the heat? A two week acclimatization period may get your child used to the heat, but NOT ready for hard training in the heat. Are you weighing your child twice per day? Before and after practice session weigh ins are critical to determining daily hydration status. Greater than a 2% - 3% total body weight loss is a problem. The heat index on May 29th was not very high when Jordan McNair fell ill.
Does the organization have a heat plan based on either the heat index or a WBGT (Wet Bulb Globe Thermometer) reading? Are the coaches and organization administrators on the same page? Can this information be easily communicated and documented?
Is your athlete getting enough sleep and eating real food? As John said, loading up on caffeinated energy drinks, especially if there is an underlying heart issue, can be dangerous. We have found that few sports programs have an ice bath ready on the field. Is the training room immediately adjacent to the practice field? And what about youth sports where there is no training room and no medical staff. Time is critical – get that athlete into the ice bath immediately!
Teach athletes to observe urine color and the relationship to hydration.
Now is the time that there are many strength and conditioning training sessions occurring in the heat. Do these programs have a heat plan and complete emergency action plan as John details? Our experience is that they are woefully under-prepared.
Don’t let “it won’t happen to us” get in the way of proper planning. Speak up, ask questions, and demand safety!