High temperatures bring higher risk of heat stroke

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 14, 2007

How hot is too hot?

That is the question athletes and coaches deal with on a regular basis as they prepare of the upcoming football season.

While players must get conditioned to play in hot temperatures, no one wants a situation like the Minnesota Vikings a few years ago when tackle Kory Stringer died of a heat stroke.

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Like most coaches, Ironton’s Bob Lutz is very concerned about practicing in escalating temperatures.

“Injuries are part of the game and you adjust to that. But the one thing that always worries me is the heat,” Lutz said.

Neil Evans, owner Elite Rehab and Fitness of Ironton, is not only a former player but a licensed physical therapist and a certified strength and conditioning specialist (DPT and CSCS). He said Stringer’s death raised the awareness of heat injuries.

“There’s all different levels of heat injuries. The most severe is a heat stroke. You can lose consciousness or even die,” said Evans. “If you know what you’re looking for, there is no reason for anyone to die.

“Just putting someone in a cool whirlpool can help someone having a heat stroke.”

Evans attended a seminar conducted by Dr. David Cossa who was featured on ESPN’s Outside the Lines story regarding heat stroke following the death of Stringer.

“(Cossa) is an advocate of how to treat it. He said he gets a Rubbermaid tub and he takes it with him and fills it up with water,” said Evans. “You can’t prevent (heat injuries) 100 percent of the time, but you can prevent death from occurring 100 percent of the time.”

As far as pure hydration, Evans said water is not only the best way but the quickest. However, he said sports drinks are good during the athletic event because athletes “lose hydration and carbohydrates. But water is essential as anything.”

Dave Coburn, physical therapist and athletic trainer, said hydration is a key issue regarding heat stroke.

“Heat cramps are about the amount of body fat. The body holds more water if it has more fat,” said Coburn. “You have to stay hydrated, but there’s no way to stop (cramping) once it starts.”

Coburn said heat cramps usually occur in the calf or hamstring. He said heat exhaustion is cramping plus profusive sweating, and heat stroke can occur when there is increased body temperature, i.e. red face.

Coburn said warning signs are the person is pale, not sweating, and shortness of breath. He said water breaks are needed every 10 to 15 minutes, but “you’ve got to condition the players, too.”

“Always be aware of the temperature and take precautions,” said Coburn. “Kids are bigger. They seat more and use more energy. Water loss is the big thing.”

Players can prepare for a Friday game by drinking sports drinks with electrolytes on Wednesdays and Thursdays, then drink plenty of water on Friday.

“Muscles are 70 percent water,” Coburn said.

Players must chart their weight before and after practices, especially during two-a-day workouts to determine natural or excessive weight loss.

Despite all the educating of coaches and referees, players may still suffer some type of heat exhaustion.

“Everyone is so aware of (heat stroke). Everyone has heightened awareness, but it’s not unusual for us to get someone every week. Competitive kids want back in the game,” said Dr. Benji Roach of Our Lady of Bellefonte Hospital in Russell, Ky.