Heat-related athlete deaths serious matter
August 13, 2009
Freedom New Mexico
A sure sign of the approach of football season is the sweltering heat we are now experiencing.
No matter how mild the weather is in late July, once players put on the pads in August, the temperatures seem to rise.
Such weather needs to bring about heightened concerns of players suffering from heat stroke, a potentially deadly condition where the core body temperature exceeds 104 degrees.
Fortunately, school officials and coaches are far more aware of hot-weather safety today than they were a few decades ago.
Still, things can go wrong.
This year, three athletes have already died from heat-related conditions. Deaths have been reported in Ohio, Kentucky and Georgia.
Since 1995, at least 39 football players across all levels have died from heat-related causes and most of those cases happened in early August.
In the excitement of getting their teams physically fit for a new season, coaches can wrongly assume a fatigued player is out of shape or being lazy.
When coaches fail to recognize the warning signs of heat-related diseases, it can stimulate the progression from dehydration to heat cramps to heat exhaustion and eventually heat stroke.
Of particular concern are those coaching in programs not supervised by schools, such as youth league programs, where there may be little or no safety training of volunteer coaches.
It behooves parents to also pay close attention to their child’s behavior following a practice. Common symptoms to watch are nausea, incoherence, fatigue, weakness, vomiting and muscle cramps.
Professional coaches associations urge coaches and parents to make sure athletes are properly hydrated. This means athletes drinking water when they may not be thirsty and avoiding carbonated or sugar-laden beverages.
Responsible coaches also offer breaks during practices on especially hot days.
Avoiding severe cases of heat illness should be a prime concern of coaches and parents as the severe heat settles over eastern New Mexico and the Texas Panhandle.
There’s no excuse for heat-stroke deaths, since all are preventable with the proper precautions.