Beat the Heat as an Athlete

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The southern Utah days may be getting a little shorter, but the heat is still here and as dangerous as ever. Across the country, two football players, one coach, and a runner have all died recently due to complications from the extreme heat hitting our nation. The American Red Cross has a few tips on how to keep you, your team, and your children safe while playing outdoors:

  • Allow athletes to get acclimated to the heat by reducing the intensity of practice until they are more accustomed to it.
  • Make frequent, longer breaks a regular part of practice. About every 20 minutes, stop for fluids and try to keep the athletes in the shade if possible.
  • Reduce the amount of heavy equipment—like football pads—athletes wear in extremely hot, humid weather.
  • Dress athletes, when appropriate, in net-type jerseys or light-weight, light-colored, cotton T-shirts and shorts.
  • Know the signs of heat-related emergencies and monitor athletes closely.

Practice earlier in the day and later at night to avoid the bulk of the heat and make sure you know the signs of heat stroke, heat exhaustion, or heat cramps. These can be identified by the following:


Heat Cramps

Heat cramps are muscular pains and spasms that usually occur in the legs or abdomen caused by exposure to high heat and humidity, and loss of fluids and electrolytes. They often signify to the body that it isn’t coping well with the heat. This is what you should do if someone is experiencing heat cramps:

  • Get the person to a cooler place and have him or her rest in a comfortable position. Stretching, massaging and icing the affected muscle may help.
  • Give a half glass of cool water or a sports drink with electrolytes every 15 minutes. Do not give liquids with alcohol or caffeine in them, as they can make conditions worse.


Heat Exhaustion

Heat exhaustion is caused by a combination of exercise induced heat and fluid and electrolyte loss from sweating. Signs of heat exhaustion include cool, moist, pale or flushed skin; heavy sweating; headache; nausea; dizziness; weakness; and exhaustion. If someone has these symptoms, here are some things you can do to help:

  • Move the person to a cooler place. Remove or loosen tight clothing. Spray him or her with water or apply cool, wet cloths or towels to the skin. Fan the person. If the person is conscious, give small amounts of cool water cool water or a sports drink with electrolytes to drink. Make sure the person drinks slowly. Watch for changes in his or her condition.
  • If the person refuses water, vomits, or begins to lose consciousness, call 9-1-1 or the local emergency number.


Heat Stroke

Heat stroke (also known as sunstroke) is a life-threatening condition in which a person’s temperature control system stops working and the body is unable to cool itself.

  • Signs of heat stroke include those of heat exhaustion and hot, red skin which may be dry or moist; change or loss of consciousness; seizures; vomiting; and high body temperature.
  • Heat stroke is life-threatening. Call 9-1-1 or the local emergency number immediately.
  • Move the person to a cooler place. Quickly cool the person’s body by immersing them up to their neck in cold water if possible. If unable to immerse them, continue rapid cooling by applying bags of ice or cold packs wrapped in a cloth to the wrists, ankles, groin, neck and armpits, spraying with water and/or fanning.


To see the full article, visit the Red Cross website.