How To Recognize Heat Related Injuries
Whether you’re an athletic director, coach or parent, player safety is your responsibility.
With two-a-days and rising temperatures on the horizon, it’s important to hit refresh on heat related injuries, their signs, symptoms and cures.
Everything from muscle cramping to heat strokes are possible when training during the summer months, and in order to avoid life-threatening consequences, one must be prepared to relieve the symptoms as quickly as possible. Here are some common signs of player fatigue and how to properly treat heat related injuries.
Muscle Cramping – acute, painful, involuntary muscle contraction typically in the arms, legs, or abdomen.1 Athletes suffering from muscle cramping should stop all activity and retreat to a cool, shaded spot and not engage in strenuous activity for a few hours.
Heat Syncope – Athletes who are dehydrated or experiencing fatigue could be suffering from heat syncope. Fainting, lightheadedness, tunnel vision, pale/sweaty skin, decreased pulse rate1 are common symptoms that should be treated seriously. Again, retreat the athlete to a cool, shaded spot to recuperate.
Heat Exhaustion – Athletes unable to continue training because of heavy sweating, dehydration, energy depletion and sodium loss during hot, humid conditions could be showing symptoms of heat exhaustion. Seek medical attention immediately and attempt to cool the player with a cold shower or sponge bath if the athlete is showing any of the following signs of heat exhaustion: normal or elevated body-core temperature (97-104°F), dizziness, lightheadedness, headache, nausea, diarrhea, weakness, persistent muscle cramps, profuse sweating, chills and cool, clammy skin.1
Heat Stroke – Experiencing a heat stroke is among the most serious of heat related injuries and could be life-threatening if not recognized or treated properly. An athlete suffering from a heat stroke will experience complete body shut down when they’re no longer able to regulate temperature naturally. The athlete will show similar symptoms as heat exhaustion but their body-core temperature will be above 104°F. The athlete may also show signs of confusion, have hot, wet or dry skin, and have an increased heart rate. If any of these symptoms are evident seek immediate medical attention and move the athlete to a cool shaded area. It’s vitally important to promptly cool the athlete with whatever resources are available to you. Immerse the player in a tub of cool water, shower, or hose them with water as they lay down.1
All the athletes on your field will have a different tolerance to exercise in hot and humid conditions, that’s why it’s vitally important to be in tune with your players and ensure they’re aware of the signs they should be checking for with their own health and their team mates. Before taking the field when temperatures are hot, identify players who are at higher risk of heat related injuries. Take frequent water breaks and ensure that each and every player is using breaks to re-hydrate. Create a safe environment where players feel comfortable speaking up if they’re experiencing any heat related symptoms. Develop a response plan and ensure that every coach, assistant, and player knows their role and responsibility in the case of an injury. Lastly, if any of these above symptoms are present, stop activity and asses the athlete’s health.
For more information on heat related injuries and responses, we recommend consulting your team trainer or doctor.
1 Ohio High School Athletic Association. (n.d.) Heat Illness: Signs, Symptoms, & What To Do. Retrieved from: https://ohsaa.org/Sports-Medicine/Sports-Safety-and-Concussion-Resources/Heat-Illness-Information-and-Resources/Heat-Illnesses-Signs-Symptoms-What-to-Do