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St. Francis Sports Medicine Newsletter | July 2009

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Summer is upon us, the temperatures are rising, and many adolescents are involved in summer sports, travel ball, and off-season conditioning. Adults are also cranking up the activity, from outdoor sports to yard work. During this time of year it is vital that you maintain hydration, and this issue can point you in the right direction. Now, grab a water bottle and get busy!

Know Your Heat Illnesses

by Kenny Cabe, ATC
During the hot summers, athletes, coaches, athletic trainers and physicians must be aware of heat illness and the possible consequences.  Heat illnesses range in severity from mild, like missing repetitions in practice, to the severe consequences of death.  It is up to all the individuals involved to work diligently to prevent these conditions and minimize time lost.  

To prevent heat illnesses, we must first understand how the body responds to heat.  The body is constantly striving to maintain its core temperature of 98.6, thus the amount of heat lost must equal the amount of heat gained. The body gains heat from the sun, from other objects warmer than the skin, and/or by conduction from objects in contact with the skin that are warmer than the skin (uniforms, for example). The body may also gain heat from its own metabolism and from convection, which occurs when the air temperature is warmer than the body. The body may dissipate heat using several different mechanisms, the most common of which are circulation and evaporation. Cooling of the body happens by convection, cool air flowing (from a fan, for example), or by conduction through drinking cool water of using cool towels. Heat illnesses happen when this finely tuned heating/cooling process of the body is disrupted.

Heat Illnesses
One of the milder forms of the three most common conditions is heat cramps. These are painful spasms of the skeletal muscles - most commonly the calf, thigh and abdominal muscles. Heat cramps are very simple to prevent. The solution? Drink, drink, drink. Unlimited access to fluids (the best is water) is a must.  The treatment for heat cramps includes the consumption of fluids, gentle stretching of the muscle, application of ice and gentle massage.

Possibly the most common heat-related condition is heat exhaustion. Heat exhaustion occurs as a result of decreased blood volume due to dehydration.  The signs and symptoms include profuse sweating, cool clammy skin, headache, weakness, dizziness, nausea and possible changes in the level of consciousness. If an athlete is suffering from heat exhaustion, they must be treated for shock.  Remove him/her from the hot environment, and elevate the feet.  Remove as much equipment and clothing as possible, and begin trying to cool the athlete with wet towels.  If the athlete is conscious, he/she should consume fluids in an attempt to cool and rehydrate the body.  If the athlete does not show signs of improvement in a short period of time, he or she should be transported to a medical facility.

The least common, but most serious heat condition, is heat stroke. In this condition, the body's thermoregulator is overloaded and cannot cool the body effectively. This is primarily due to decreased blood volume as a result of dehydration.  Heat stroke is a severe medical emergency, and the individual should receive immediate emergency treatment.

To help keep heat illnesses at bay, physical conditioning is one important component. The athlete who is accustomed to working in the heat will have fewer problems than the athlete who is not.  It generally takes an individual, working daily for 1 - 2 hours / 5 -7 days to become acclimated to the heat.  However, the single most important preventative measure is unlimited access to water. Follow these fluid replacement guidelines to keep yourself and/or your athletes in top condition:

2 - 3 hours prior = 17 - 20 oz. of fluids
10 - 15 min. prior = 7 - 10 oz. of fluids

During practice/event
28 - 40 oz. per hour (approx. 7-10 oz. every 10 minutes)

Post practice/event
20 - 24 oz. per pound of weight lost

For more tips like these, view our injury prevention guide >>

Featured Event Photo
Paris Mountain Trail Run

15K Paris Mountain Trail Run - June 2009

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