For many people, fall sports season starts in the middle of the summer. Over the next few weeks, practices will ramp up for many sports – both at the organized level for high school athletes as well as on the intramural level. Whether you’re playing football, soccer, field hockey, running cross country, or engaging in any other outdoor sport, these early practices present significant danger of heat illness.
Throughout most of the country, temperatures will remain in the 90s or hotter through August and into September. According to the CDC, heat illness is the leading cause of death among high school athletes. Therefore, it’s crucial to take the proper steps to prevent athletes from suffering heat illness when competing in extreme heat.
Your body has a variety of mechanisms that it uses to keep cool. However, as temperatures and humidity levels rise, these mechanisms become less effective until they’re no longer able to regulate your core temperature. When this occurs, your body’s temperature may rise to dangerous levels, resulting in heat illness.
There are several different stages of heat illness:
The risk of heat illness rises significantly when athletes engage in activities which:
Therefore, the proper precautions must be taken to minimize the risk of heat illness when temperatures are extremely hot. The following plan will help you keep your athletes safe when practicing and competing during peak summer heat.
It’s important to gradually ramp up the intensity of practices to allow the body time to adjust to extreme heat. This process, called heat acclimatization, should take place over a period of one to two weeks. During this time, practices should be shorter and include more breaks. Hydration should be stressed. Each day, you can gradually increase the duration and intensity of practice until the athletes on your team are able to handle the rigors of a full practice.
There’s nothing wrong with planning out the details of your practices in advance. However, you should always make adjustments in the morning based on the specific weather conditions you’re experiencing. On days when extremely hot temperatures are forecasted, it’s crucial to modify the:
On days when temperatures reach dangerously hot levels, it may even be necessary to consider canceling practice.
The most effective metric to use when evaluating weather conditions prior to practice is the Wet Bulb Globe Temperature (WBGT). This is a comprehensive measurement which factors air temperature, humidity, sun angle, wind speed and cloud cover. Use the following WBGT measurement guidelines to modify your practices based on the specific conditions that day:
Dehydration can not only impact your performance, but also elevate your risk of heat illness. As a result, staying properly hydrated is one of the most important things you can do to prevent heat illness. Make sure all athletes follow these hydration best practices:
A good way to gauge hydration levels is to monitor urine color and frequency. Urine will be clear or very light in color when you are properly hydrated. When urine is dark yellow or when urination occurs infrequently, it is often a warning sign of dehydration. Other signs of dehydration include low energy, cramps, dizziness, and headaches.
Shoulder pads, helmets and other protective gear inhibit the body’s ability to release heat through sweating. Certain clothing materials may also inhibit sweat functions, and dark colors increase the body’s absorption of heat from the sun. To avoid these issues:
While the best practices discussed above are extremely important, they can only do so much to keep athletes cool on hot days. One of the most effective ways to help athletes lower their core body temperature during the peak summer heat is to provide a cooling system on the sidelines. Portacool portable evaporative coolers are ideally suited to keep your athletes safe when the heat becomes intense. Every high school and athletic institute needs a Portacool!
Portacool has been the industry leader in evaporative cooling technology since 1990. All our evaporative coolers are made in the USA at our Center, Texas manufacturing plant. Our evaporative media is produced by our subsidiary company, Kuul. It is made from the highest quality materials and designed to fit the exact specifications of our evaporative coolers. This ensures you receive the maximum cooling benefits at all times.
We offer a wide range of evaporative cooler models, ensuring there is a solution to address your specific needs. With sturdy wheels and casters, you can easily move your Portacool around the practice field to provide cooling in the exact location you need it. Portacool evaporative coolers are also easy to move around and can run off a generator, so you can keep your team cool at home and away games.