Click to Protect Young Athletes from Heat-Related Illnesses

Aug 12, 2011, 8:07 PM, Posted by

A coach plays basketball with a student in a school yard.

With practices and drills just beginning for many school sports teams and temperatures still nearing the top of the thermometer, coaches and trainers should consider a quick online refresher course, or an app to access heat tips from the field.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) now offers an online course to help coaches, teachers, parents, and high school athletes prevent and treat health-related illness. The course includes guidelines for recognizing signs of heat illness and steps for immediate treatment that could save a life.

“Any athlete dying from heat is a tragedy that can be prevented," says Robin Ikeda, M.D., M.P.H., Deputy Director for Noncommunicable Diseases, Injury and Environmental Health at CDC.

According to CDC estimates, each year there are almost 6,000 emergency department visits for sports and recreation heat illnesses.

Precautions include:

  • Stop all activity and get to a cool environment if you feel faint or weak.
  • Limit outdoor activity in the middle of the day when the sun is hottest; schedule workouts and practices earlier or later in the day.
  • Pace activity in hot weather. Start slow and pick up the pace gradually.
  • Drink more water than usual and don’t wait until you?re thirsty to drink.
  • Seek medical care immediately if you or a teammate has symptoms of heat-related illness such as heavy sweating or nausea.

This training comes on the heels of the release of new American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines for heat illness in young athletes, which included a call for risk-reduction training for coaches. Materials from the CDC such as posters and water bottle labels with prevention tips increase the likelihood that young athletes will take precautions as well.

And a new app lets athletes and coaches take the warnings right to the sidelines. The Department of Labor has just released a mobile phone app for several smartphone platforms that lets users calculate the heat index for their location. Based on the level displayed, the app gives out reminders on protective measures such as drinking enough fluids and getting regular shade, as well as what to do for a heat-related emergency.

This commentary originally appeared on the RWJF New Public Health blog.