When the heat really is on
By Joe Black | (firstname.lastname@example.org)
The official start of high school football around here is Monday. Sure, teams have been working out, running drills, and getting everything into full swing for a while now, but tomorrow, they can all put on the pads and get serious about it.
Because of that, I’m going to talk about the topic I have most frequently addressed in this space: Dealing with the heat. This is like “Dealing with the Heat — Part XXIV” or something like that. It may be redundant but it is important.
We live in the hot, humid south and it is a huge problem for our athletes and the athletic trainers that take care of them. Rare is the year that among the hundreds of athletes that we take care of, that no one has problems with the heat.
This time, I’m going to keep it real simple: Stay hydrated and stay as cool as you can.
Basic care and prevention of heat problems, what we call “heat-related illness,” really is that simple.
As for hydration, the debate about water or sports drinks continues. I happen to agree with Dr. Dan Benardot, a friend and acquaintance of mine, who also happens to be a nutrition professor at Georgia State University and a world-renowned authority on heat and hydration. Dr. Benardot is an advocate of sports drinks. We know that sports drinks exit the stomach more slowly than water but are absorbed in the intestines more quickly. What that means is that the water (which is what it’s all about anyway) makes it into your system more quickly that way.
We also know that we drink fluids more readily if they taste good, giving further nod to the sports drink side of the debate. The bottom line is that you need to drink lots of fluids — probably a lot more than you think you should.
We also need to stay cool. There is a reason that there are so many high-tech, synthetic sports wear companies.
That stuff works.
We sweat for a reason — cooling by evaporation. Our skin is a very good mechanism for keeping us cool but these garments help the skin do its job more effectively. Cottons or dark clothing just don’t work and may impede the body’s ability to dissipate heat.
In sports like football, where the equipment — helmet and shoulder pads — get in the way of evaporative cooling, it becomes more important to take breaks. Get in the shade when you can. And stay hydrated.
The best first aid when someone is getting too hot is ice and water. The very best method is cold water immersion; putting someone in a tub of cold water. That’s why you’ll see a kid’s wading pool or horse trough at our football practice sites, since that’s where the most frequent heat-related problems occur. Above all else, remember that if anyone stops sweating, you have a medical emergency on your hands. If you don’t do the right thing, they may have only minutes to live.
Joe Black, PT, DPT, SCS, ATC is a physical therapist and athletic trainer at Total Rehabilitation and is Manager of Outpatient Rehabilitation for Blount Memorial Hospital. Write to him at (email@example.com)