Tips for Training and Playing in the Heat, and how to avoid heat injuries, heat exhaustion and heat stroke.
No matter where you are in the world, it’s summer somewhere; and as the temperature rises, so does the occurrence of heat injuries. Although heat injuries are one of the most common forms of sports injuries to effect athletes, it is easy to prevent them.
Heat injuries occur when your body temperature rises above normal, or when your body
is no longer able to regulate heat loss.
Heat injuries are generally defined in three stages.
- Dehydration: This is the mildest form of heat injury, in which your body simply suffers from a lack of fluid.
- Heat Exhaustion: This is the next step beyond dehydration. If not treated immediately, serious injury and even death can result.
- Heat Stroke: This Is Very Dangerous. Without proper medical attention a victim can die within minutes.
What Causes Heat Injuries?
There are many causes, others are less obvious.
- Coffee and alcohol
- Excessive activity and exertion
- High humidity
- High temperatures
- Illness, especially vomiting and diarrhoea.
- Medications, especially diuretics
What are the Signs and Symptoms?
(In the order of occurrence)
- Weak, no energy
- Hot, dry skin
- Weak, but rapid heart rate
- Low blood pressure
- Rapid breathing
One of the best indicators of whether you are dehydrated (or not) is to check the colour of your urine…If you are dehydrated, your urine becomes very dark in colour. In severe cases it can be a dark brown colour. Your urine is a very light colour, (even clear) when your hydration levels are good.
Drink fluid until you pee clear. This way you’ll always know that your body is fully hydrated.
How do you Prevent Heat Injuries?
As with all sports injuries, prevention is always better than cure… Prevention is even more important with heat injuries, because if you leave it too late, you may not get a second chance.
- Always acclimatize to your current training (or playing) environment.
- Avoid caffeine, alcohol, sugary drinks, and fizzy drinks.
- Avoid sunburn at all costs. Sunburn will draw fluid from all areas of your body in an effort to replenish moisture in the skin. (Slip, Slop, Slap!)
- Avoid the extreme heat of the middle of the day
- Drink, and drink often. Before, during and after any training or competing. Don’t wait to become thirsty. Remember drink fluid until you pee clear. Water is usually best, however, a good quality sports drink will also help to replace salts and minerals lost through sweat
- In Australia, the slogan is “Slip, Slop, Slap!” Slip on a shirt, Slop on some sunscreen, and Slap on a hat.
- Schedule plenty of rest time in cool, shaded areas, as part of your programme.
- Wear loose fitting clothing that doesn’t restrict your movement, and also allows for a good circulation of air.
- Lastly, don’t ignore the warning signs.
How do you Treat Heat Injuries?
The treatment of dehydration, heat exhaustion and heat stroke are very similar. However, if heat stroke is involved the patient must seek medical assistance.
Remember, heat stroke is life threatening, don’t take any chances, call for professional medical help.
Guidelines for treating heat injuries.
- Elevate the feet.
- Have the patient lie or sit down in a cool, shaded area with good air circulation.
- Immerse in cool (not cold) water.
- Loosen tight clothing.
- Saturate clothes in cool water. If necessary wrap patient in a wet sheet or towel.
- Start to replace both fluid and salt loss. Give both water and sports drink if available.
- Use fans or other cooling devices to help reduce body temperature.
Remember; if the patient is suffering from any of the serious warning signs like confusion, a weak, rapid heart rate or becomes unconscious, seek medical help immediately.