Heat Injuries

Environmental Conditions
NASPE/NCAT Sport Injury Resource

Whenever you work or play outside in a hot, humid environment, you increase your chances of suffering a heat-related illness. Traditional classifications of heat illness are listed below, along with prevention recommendations based on the National Athletic Training Position Statement on exertional heat illnesses. For more information, log onto www.nata.org, then click on Publications > Position Statements.

CRAMPS - Cramps are due to fluid deficiencies (dehydration), thirst, electrolyte imbalances, and/or muscular fatigue. Note that cramps can occur in hot OR cold weather.

A sudden, painful, and involuntary muscle contraction lasting a brief period of time.
Stop activity and begin mild stretching with massage of the muscle spasm. Allowing the athlete to lie down may permit more rapid redistribution of blood flow to cramping leg muscles. Replace lost fluids with some type of sports drink, such as Gatorade® or any fluid containing sodium (salt).

HEAT EXHAUSTION - Heat exhaustion is the inability to continue exercising, especially when playing in hot, humid conditions.

Heat exhaustion may be associated with any combination of heavy sweating, dehydration, sodium loss, and fatigue. Other signs and symptoms include pale skin, nausea, decreased pulse rate, headache, dizziness, lightheadedness, and/or fainting.
Remove from practice immediately to a cool and shaded area. Remove excess clothing, pads, and/or helmet to help facilitate evaporation and cooling. Cool the athlete with fans, ice towels, or ice bags. Give fluids. If recovery is not rapid or is uneventful, call 911 or your local emergency number.

HEAT STROKE - The body’s thermal regulatory system is overwhelmed and cannot function properly due to an elevated core temperature of 104?F or above. The longer the body’s temperature remains above 106?F, the greater chance for serious organ tissue damage or death. Thus, heat stroke is life threatening and can become fatal unless promptly recognized and treated.

Rapid heart rate, heavy breathing, hot and sweating skin (although skin may be wet or dry at time of collapse), nausea and vomiting. Other signs include an altered mental status such as confusion, irritability, dizziness, drowsiness, disorientation, staggering, and/or loss of consciousness. Seizures and comma may result.

First and foremost, activate 911 or your local emergency number. Aggressive first aid cooling should be initiated until emergency personnel arrive.

Immediately remove athlete from practice to a cool and shaded area. Remove clothing, immerse in a tub of cold water (35?F to 59?F). If a cold pool of water is not available, apply ice bags to as much of the body as possible, especially to the major vessels in the armpit, groin, and neck. and/or helmet to help facilitate evaporation and cooling. If ice bags are not available, repeatedly sponge athlete down with cool water or apply cold towels and continuously fan the body. Give fluids if conscious. Monitor the athlete’s vital signs, maintain an open airway and await emergency help.

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