May 6, 2010 • Strength & Conditioning

Tip From The Trenches – Summertime Safety

Ken Mannie

The summer heat will soon be nipping at the back of our necks. Prior to embarking on the summer conditioning program, it would be wise to review the precautions, signs, symptoms, and necessary actions associated with heat-related stresses.

• Athletes should have medical clearance from the team’s medical staff or their primary care physicians before engaging in a strenuous summer conditioning program.

• A built-in acclimation period of seven to 10 shorter (20 to 30 minutes) workouts performed at low to moderate intensity, with adequate recovery and liberal fluid availability, should be in place.

• In parts of the country that have extremely hot and humid climates during the targeted months, it also is sensible to hold the initial conditioning sessions during milder parts of the day (early morning or evening). Account for the heat index each day and follow-up with the appropriate measures with regard to training alterations or rescheduling.

• Water and sports drinks should be readily available and consumed liberally when desired.

• Whenever possible, a certified athletic trainer (ATC) should be present at all conditioning sessions. My personal opinion is that this should be a requirement at every level of play. At the very least, a workable emergency plan should be firmly in place and understood by every coach in attendance. All coaches should be certified in adult CPR and be required to attend yearly continuing-education sessions on the prevention and management of heat-related illnesses.

• Heat exhaustion usually presents itself in the forms of clammy skin, rapid pulse, headache, nausea, dizziness, light-headedness and possible muscle cramps. This athlete should immediately cease the activity, be taken to a cool, shady area to either sit or lie down in a supine (with slightly elevated feet) position. Cool liquids can be administered gradually and to tolerance. Of course, qualified medical assistance should be summoned to the scene with expediency.

• Heat stroke is an immediate emergency situation! Its symptoms can include the following: disorientation, extremely high body temperature (103 degrees or higher when taken orally), nausea, vomiting, throbbing headache, and very hot, red, dry skin. Emergency personnel (i.e., 911) must be contacted immediately. Get the victim to the coolest area possible, and cool him or her with any means available; water hose, shower, wet towels, fanning, etc., but do not force fluids, especially if the victim is nauseous or struggling with consciousness.

• If you have an athlete with known sickle-cell trait, a heightened sense of awareness must be in effect. Sickle-cell trait can hamper the blood’s ability to carry oxygen when triggered by physical stress (known as “exertional sickling”), which is worsened with dehydration. Basically, sickled red blood cells can “logjam” blood vessels within working muscles. Special attention must be paid to this athlete, and it must be understood that he or she may not be able to handle the volume or intensity of certain workouts — especially those held in high temperatures. Coaches need special instructions from qualified ATCs or the medical staff in managing the sickle-cell trait athlete.

To contact Ken Mannie with any questions or comments about Powerline, drop him an email at [email protected].

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