Heat stress and injury among young athletes can be prevented

August 18, 2005

Progressively increasing practice time and intensity and ensuring that football players are replacing lost fluids during training are two ways to significantly reduce the risk of heat stress and injury during preseason practice, a recent expert panel convened by the American College of Sports Medicine found.

Coaches also should allow enough recovery between practices and gradually introduce parts of the uniform, experts say.

Most high school and younger players are already fighting a losing battle when they show up to practice, says Dr. Michael F. Bergeron, panel co-chair and assistant professor of physical therapy at the Medical College of Georgia. The panel's full statement and recommendations are published in the August issue of Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise.

"What we've found is that most players typically begin practice dehydrated - pretty significantly dehydrated," Dr. Bergeron says. "Young players generally just don't drink enough, especially following extensive exercise or training in the heat."

Surprisingly, though, hydration isn't the most important aspect of preventing heat-related injuries. Players are often simply not acclimated to the environment, the intensity of practice and the uniform, he says.

"What coaches and staff need to recognize and appreciate is that the athletes are not coming into the preseason as well-conditioned as they might hope," Dr. Bergeron says. "High school kids are going to be less fit and not only are they not accustomed to the physical exertion that workouts require, they're not really acclimatized to the heat and working out in that environment, especially while wearing a uniform and protective gear."

To help protect ill-prepared players, coaches should introduce a training schedule that progresses slowly - waiting until week two to introduce twice-daily conditioning and training sessions, experts say. They also should realize that adding a heavy uniform adds to the heat and strain players are already experiencing when weather conditions are unbearable. That can significantly add to the risk of heat injury.

"Most heat-related injuries and deaths occur within the first four days of practice, particularly on days one and two," Dr. Bergeron says. "The primary factors for driving body temperature during practice and clinical risk related to overheating are the environment and the intensity/duration of the workouts and the uniform."

During the first week of practice, protective equipment should be introduced in stages, starting with the helmet, progressing to shoulder pads and helmet and, finally, to the full uniform, the authors write.

Other suggestions include requiring a preseason exam to determine what medications and dietary supplements athletes are using and to rule out undiagnosed heart problems and other genetic risk factors. Also, twice-daily practice sessions, once introduced, should be staggered throughout the week to allow for at least a one-day break between multiple-session days.

And even if the temperature outside hasn't reached the boiling point, players and coaches should still take precautions.

"What we are beginning to appreciate more and more is that it doesn't have to be unbearably hot to have problems," Dr. Bergeron says. "The focus of this is prevention."
-end-


Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University

Related Athletes Articles from Brightsurf:

51% of Americans agree paying college athletes should be allowed
More Americans than not believe that college athletes should be allowed to be paid more than what it costs them to go to school, a new national study of nearly 4,000 people suggests.

Menstrual dysfunction is more common among young athletes than among non-athletes
Menstrual dysfunction is more prevalent in young Finnish athletes than it is among non-athletes of a similar age, but athletes experience less body weight dissatisfaction than non-athletes do.

Athletes don't benefit from relying on a coach for too long
Athletes increasingly relying on a coach over the course of a season may be a sign that they aren't progressing in their development, according to new research from Binghamton University.

Olympic athletes should be mindful of their biological clocks
Biological clocks have sizeable effects on the performance of elite athletes.

Female athletes at risk for nutritional deficiencies
Two decades of research among female athletes over the age of 13 years shows that a lack of nutrition knowledge about what they need to eat to stay healthy and compete may contribute to poor performance, low energy and nutrient intake, and potential health risks, according to a Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School study.

Electrocardiogram shows value in college athletes' screens
Research published today indicates that screenings that incorporate an ECG are more effective at detecting cardiac conditions that put athletes at risk, and more efficient in terms of cost-per-diagnosis of at-risk players, than screenings involving only a physical exam and patient history.

How kirigami can help us study the muscular activity of athletes
Scientists devise an elastic and durable skin-contact patch for measuring the electromyographic activity of the palm muscle inspired by ancient Japanese paper crafts.

Study examines attitudes toward transgender athletes
As several states draft legislation that would force student-athletes to play as their gender identified on their birth certificate instead of on a team that matches their gender identity, a team of political scientists investigated underlying factors that drive public opinion on transgender athletes.

The mind-muscle connection: For aesthetes, not athletes?
The 'mind-muscle connection.' Ancient lore for bodybuilders, latest buzz for Instragram fitness followers.

Sudden cardiac arrest in athletes: Prevention and management
It's marathon season, and every so often a news report will focus on an athlete who has collapsed from sudden cardiac arrest.

Read More: Athletes News and Athletes Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.