August 22, 2019 • Football

Handling the Heat: Keep your players safe as the season kicks off

{Sponsored} As the fall sports season begins to come into focus, many regions of the United States can expect late-summer and early-fall heat waves before cooler temperatures settle in. According to the U.S. Global Change Research Program, the average heat wave season is 47 days longer than it was back in the 1960s, with some regions seeing more than eight severe heat waves each season.

When it comes to outdoor sports, extreme heat can lead to severe illness and sometimes even prove to be fatal — especially in football. As coaches and parents, it’s vital to understand how to properly prepare for and deal with these potential in-season heat waves.

Know the Warning Signs

For starters, members of your coaching and medical staff should be able to adequately detect if a player is showing symptoms of dehydration or if they are overheating. According to the USA Football Parent Guide, symptoms of heat-related illness and dehydration can include:

  • Fever
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Faintness
  • Headaches
  • Intense thirst
  • Muscle spasms
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Urinary retention
  • Skin numbness or tingling
  • Fast or deeper than normal breath

Among other heat-based illnesses, your coaching staff should be able to identify dehydration, heat cramps, heat exhaustion and exertional heat strokes. In most cases, athletes suffering from these symptoms should be given a sports drink to help replenish fluid and sodium losses and be moved to an area of shade or air conditioning.

Act Quickly

In instances where an exertional heat stroke may be suspected, the focus should be on calling medical personnel (on-site or emergency) for an immediate transport to a local medical facility. Treatment generally includes a rapid whole-body cooling using a tub of cold water and/or ice or using fans and cold towels.

Plan Practice Times Accordingly

One way that coaches can try to reduce heat-based illnesses is by planning practice at certain times. Scheduling workouts or practices to avoid peak sun hours (10AM – 4PM) when possible will help reduce the likelihood of heat-based issues. Practicing in the morning before classes or later in the evening helps players practice more safely and efficiently.

Ensure Proper Hydration

Encouraging athletes to properly hydrate and consume healthy meals, both before and after practices/games, is one more way that coaches and parents can help minimize the risk of heat-related incidents.

Roughly 10 to 15 minutes before kickoff, encourage players to drink 16 to 24 ounces of water. Hydration is especially important throughout the game, so players should drink an electrolyte-packed drinks such as Gatorade. Postgame, players should replenish with a drink or a high-protein or high-potassium food – some ideas are bananas, protein bars and chocolate milk.

For more information on USA Football and ways to better ensure player safety in the heat, visit www.usafootball.com.

© 2019 USA Football


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