Local high school athletes are getting outside for various camps this summer.
That activity will accelerate when fall sports begin practicing in the traditionally blazing hot month of August.
Tonganoxie High athletic trainer Mark Padfield reminds athletes of all ages to be prepared for outdoor activity when the heat and humidity are at high levels.
He said he’s noticed that student athletes aren’t always as acclimated to the heat as they once were.
The American Red Cross provides facts and first aid guidelines for hydration and first aid when temperatures are high.
Visit www.redcross.org/prepare/disaster/heat-wave for tips.
“The biggest thing I’ve seen over the last few years is that kids just aren’t outside anymore,” Padfield said. “They’re staying inside and playing video games and reading books and watching TV. Their bodies aren’t used to the heat like they used to be.”
He said he thought that has contributed to the increase in heat illnesses in general in the country.
“And kids go from sitting inside and go straight outside to participate in activities without giving bodies time to adjust to the heat,” he said.
Padfield, who also is president of the Kansas Athletic Trainers Society, said it takes anywhere from 7-14 days for the body to really adjust to functioning well in the heat.
“If you don’t get out there before the start of football or whatever, you’re kind of setting yourself up for failure a little bit,” Padfield said.
Hydration is another issue.
Padfield said people should drink 24 ounces of water about two hours before practice or competition and another 12 ounces 10 to 20 minutes before and activity to be hydrated. He said people generally are “walking around with mild dehydration anyway.”
That goes for his student athletes also.
“They just don’t drink water enough,” he said. “They think Gatorade is what they need. They think if they drink one Gatorade, they’re good. Well, not really.”
Hydration is important during activity as well. Padfield said athletes should be drinking 8 ounces of water every 20 minutes or so, “replacing what you’re losing.”
He said there’s a rule of thumb: For every pound a person loses during an activity, the person needs 24 ounces of water to replace it.
And while Padfield recommends water, he said a sports drink is better than not hydrating at all.
He said athletes young and old should stay away from teas or other caffeinated drinks, which speed up the dehydration process.
Preventing heat illness
When preparing to head outside for any activities in the summer, young athletes should wear lightweight and light-colored clothing. They also should apply sunscreen and wear hats if possible.
“Eat smaller meals and more often so the body is not using a lot of energy to digest,” Padfield advised.
He said he has treated various heat illnesses during his time as a trainer — heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke.
In Tonganoxie, it’s been cramps and exhaustion that have needed treatment. On average, he said he treats five to 10 heat exhaustion cases in a year. For cramps, Padfield and his staff will massage the cramping muscles and push the water so the athlete can get back to practice.
Padfield monitors the heat index during those August practices. If it’s too high, practice is ended.
Teams practice early in the morning and late at night if need be when temperatures are at extremely high levels.
Signs and symptoms
Signs of heat exhaustion are cool and moist skin, pale or flush complexion. Someone who is sweating profusely, complaining of a headache or nausea could have heat exhaustion. Vomiting and dizziness are other signs.
“You need to drink fluids slowly, not all at once,” Padfield said. “Cool down with moistened towels. Get in the air conditioning or shade.”
For heat exhaustion, an athlete usually will be held out the remainder of the day and won’t return to practice.
“We’ve got phenomenal coaches who are more worried about their athletes,” Padfield said. “Gone are the days of ‘Oh, suck it up. He’s weak.’”
He said it’s a serious condition, but generally not life-threatening.
Heat stroke, meanwhile, should trigger a 911 call. The body’s core temperature could be 105 degrees.
“If you don’t cool down, you risk brain damage or death,” he said.
For heat stroke, The American Red Cross recommends wrapping ice packs in cloth and applying them to the person's body, especially in warmer areas such as wrists, ankles, armpits, neck and groin.
“They won’t be sweaty,” Padfield said. “The body’s saying, ‘Nope, this isn’t gonna work. We’re done.’”