Heat Injury

Here are some facts about heat injury from the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.

How do athletes sustain a heat injury?

Athletes participating in sports events or practice sessions during intense heat are the most susceptible to heat injury. Athletes who do not drink enough fluids during the intense heat also are prone to heat injury.

Are there different types of heat injuries?

There are many forms of heat injury. The mildest form of heat injury is heat cramps which occurs when athletes do not drink enough fluids when exercising. Heat exhaustion is a more serious injury, triggered by excessive sweating and inadequate fluid replacement; the body is unable to supply the increased blood volume needed by the brain, skin and the muscles in extreme heat. The result is dizziness, weakness, and fainting. The most serious form of heat injury is life-threatening heatstroke. Heatstroke occurs when the body’s sweating mechanism shuts down, the skin become hot and dry, and the body is depleted of fluids.

How can heat injury be prevented?

Fluid replacement is essential in preventing heat injury. Appropriate physical conditioning and becoming adjusted with the climate also are important. Recognition of the early symptoms of heat injury by athletes is critical. The longer the athlete waits, the more severe the heat injury.

Here are some preventative tips to help athletes avoid heat injury:

  • Drink plenty of fluids when participating in a sports activity, even if you are not thirsty.
  • Preseason conditioning will help your body cope with the heat and humidity.
  • Take many breaks in hot weather. Do not over exert yourself especially if you have not properly trained for the sport.
  • Participate in athletic activities in the morning or late afternoon when the temperature is cooler. The sun’s rays are most intense between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
  • Participating in shorter, faster sports events will not decrease the risk of heat injury in hot weather. Instead, try to schedule, longerslower-paced events.
  • Wear lightweight, light colored clothes made of porous materials. Do not wear full equipment, such as heavy football pads, when practicing.
  • If you believe someone is suffering from overexposure to heat, immediately seek medical care. Until help arrives, you should move the victim to a shaded area; remove any excess clothing; wet and fan the body; and elevate the legs and buttocks.