June 27, 2016 • Football

Beating the heat this summer

With summer workouts on the horizon, coaches must be up to speed on the best ways to keep their players safe from heat illnesses.

Education is the first step to keeping athletes in playing shape. The National Federation of State High School Associations offers a free online course on heat acclimatization and illness prevention, and the Korey Stringer Institute (KSI) also has resources to assist coaches and their players.

Heat acclimatization is a great prevention strategy, said Rebecca Stearns, COO at the KSI. Acclimatization guidelines call for a two-week build in contact, equipment and practice duration to allow players’ bodies to adjust to the temperatures. Additionally, the National Athletic Trainers’ Association (NATA) recommends that coaches develop a preseason conditioning program that lasts a minimum of four weeks, gradually preparing athletes to play at full speed.

During that time, it’s important that coaches keep close tabs on their players and the workouts they’re administering.

“Every athlete should have access to water and you should be weighing them in and out at practices,” Stearns said. “The difference is going to be the water and sweat. We need to make sure we’ve replaced everything that they lose.”

Schools that don’t have a full-time athletic trainer should do everything they can to get a medical professional involved with their program, especially during the summer months.

“Thirty percent of athletes don’t have care when they take the field,” Stearns said. “We have to make sure we have precautions in place and the medical professionals who can prevent and treat these illnesses.”

Below are some additional tips from the KSI. Click here to see heat acclimatization guidelines for your state.

  • Do not participate in more than one practice per day in the first five days of practice.
  • Do not practice more than three hours in one day on single practice days.
  • Do not wear full gear until day six of practice.
  • For full-contact sports, live full-contact drills should not be used until day six of practice.
  • For double-practice days, they must be followed by a single-practice day or day of rest.
  • On double-practice days, a single practice should not exceed three hours including stretching, warm-up, cool-down and lifting and total practice time should not exceed five hours.
  • Be properly hydrated before, during and after practice.
  • Gradually increase the intensity of practice over the course of a few days.
  • Increase the amount of sodium in your diet for the first days of practice to make up for sweat salt loss.
  • Avoid practicing while sick.
  • Have cooling methods available during practice (ice towels, ice tubs).
  • Take breaks frequently to avoid your body overheating.
  • Get plenty of sleep the nights before practices.

To learn more, click here and click on the Health & Safety tab to find videos on heat and hydration strategies.

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