By Marty Gordon
The recent high temperatures and humidity could be drastically affecting area high school football teams.
Players from Radford to Shawsville are looking for ways to stay hydrated in the mercury that has reached well over 100 degrees with the heat index.
For now, many schools are practicing at night at least until school gets underway this week.
The Virginia High School League has issued the following guidelines.
“Proper heat-acclimatization plans in secondary school athletic programs are essential to minimize the
risk of exertional heat illness (EHI) during the preseason practice period. Gradually increasing athletes’
exposure to the duration and intensity of physical activity and to the environment minimizes exertional heat illness risk while improving athletic performance. “
According to the VHSL and experts, in conjunction with the pre-participation exam, student-athletes should be screened for risk factors or a history of EHI. Athletes should be acclimatized to heat gradually over a 7–14-day period. Special considerations and/or modifications are needed for those wearing protective equipment during days of high heat and humidity. Athletes should remain well hydrated and replace fluids lost through sweat during activity, including conditioning/training sessions, practices and games. It should be emphasized that athletes should have free access to readily available fluids at any time, not just during breaks. It is imperative that relevant personnel be trained in prevention, signs and symptoms, and treatment of
When high temperatures and/or humidity is forecasted, those supervising practices and competitions should make accommodations based on these conditions, including increasing frequency and duration of water breaks; increasing frequency and duration of rest breaks; reducing the amount of equipment worn during activity; modifying total amount of time engaged in practice; and changing activity location.
While these services can provide guidance for planning purposes, they should never replace the “real-time” evaluation of environmental conditions on-site at the activity location. Weather forecasts tend to be generalized over a large area, can and do change frequently, and ultimately may not be specific for the athletic venue.
Exertional heat illness range in severity, according to the VHSL, from exercise associated muscle cramps to exertional heat stroke.
Exercise associated muscle cramps are sudden or sometimes progressively and noticeably evolving, involuntary, painful contractions of skeletal muscle during or after exercise. These cramps are temperature and can present during exercise in warm, cool or temperature-controlled environments, though excessive sweating is often present. Proposed contributing factors to exercise associated muscle cramps are as followed: dehydration, electrolyte imbalances, altered neuromuscular control, fatigue or
any combination of these factors.
Signs and symptoms: visible cramping in part or all of the muscle (group); localized pain, dehydration, thirst, sweating; and fatigue.
Treatment: rest, passive stretching and rehydration using a high sodium/carbohydrate beverage.
Heat exhaustion is the inability to effectively exercise in the heat, secondary to a combination of factors, including cardiovascular insufficiency, low blood pressure, energy depletion and central fatigue. This condition is manifested by an elevated core body temperature, usually less than 105 degrees F, and is often associated with a high rate or volume of skin blood flow, heavy sweating and dehydration. It often occurs in hot or humid (or both) conditions, but it can also occur in normal environmental conditions with intense physical activity. Heat exhaustion occurs most often in individuals who are heat-unacclimatized or dehydrated. Signs and Symptoms include excessive fatigue, syncope, collapse, headache, dizziness, confusion, vomiting, nausea, lightheadedness, and low blood pressure.
Treatment: remove equipment and clothing to facilitate cooling, move to a cool, shaded or indoor area, cool with cold towels and fans as needed, monitor vital signs, have athlete rest lying on their back, elevate legs above heart, and activate EMS if athlete does not show signs of improvement within 30 minutes.
The key in all of this is the hydration, hydration and more hydration. This is also important for anyone working outside for long hours in this heat.
High School football is just around the corner, and we hope to see you at one of the many football stadiums in the New River Valley. Drink plenty of water and fluids. Take it easy in the hot sun.