Heat Illness Prevention for Summer Sports

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May 23, 2019

By Danielle Roland, MA, ATC

Athletic Trainers (ATs) and our patients are dealing with the heat of summer and need to be informed of the effects high temperatures and humidity can have on them. In this blog, we will discuss how to prevent heat illness, educate your patients and better equip you to treat it.

A good way to measure the effects of heat stress is by using the wet-bulb globe temperature (WBGT). This portable meter measures air temperature, humidity, air movement and radiation from sunlight. It was first used in the 1950s at military bases and quickly made its way through other organizations. Although very useful, the BGT does not account for other factors, such as clothing, exercise intensity, age, fitness acclimatization and health status.

When you find yourself in a situation where you need to recall the strategies for preventing heat illness, just remember to take CARE:

Choose clothing that allows for heat loss

Add rest breaks to rehydrate

Reschedule practice or game times to a cooler part of the day

Exercise in the shade, using fans or going indoors

If exercising in the heat is the only option, you may introduce heat acclimatization by achieving and maintaining a target heart rate. When the temperature and humidity are high, you can slow your movements and decrease the time to achieve the same heart rate. As acclimatization occurs, you can increase training intensities. Most people who are in good health can become acclimatized in 10-14 days.

Proper hydration is another important key to minimizing the risk of heat illness. Athletes should be reminded to drink before, during and after exercise to replenish lost fluids. Even the smallest amount of dehydration can impact performance. An easy way to monitor fluids lost is to have patients weigh in before and after exercise. To replenish the lost fluids, drink 16 ounces for each pound lost.

Knowing what to replenish with will help the patient recover more quickly. Most often, water is the best drink to consume. Patients who complete exercise sessions lasting more than 60-90 minutes may consider replenishing with electrolytes and carbohydrates. Generally, a healthy meal post-exercise will give back the needed electrolytes and nutrients.

As always, any person with a disease or using medications should consult physician before exercising. Prior history with heat illness raises a red flag and should not be taken lightly. Be sure to gain appropriate information on each athlete before training begins.

As a sports medicine professional, you are responsible for educating others on their health and wellness. Providing your patients with information on heat illness such as signs and symptoms, what foods and drinks to bring to practice/games, and what clothing is best to wear will empower them to take control of their own health. Lastly, having an emergency action plan in place will help you handle a situation efficiently – and possibly save a life.


ACSM’S Guidelines For Exercise Testing And Prescription. 2000; 6th edition. 313-316


About the Author

Danielle roland   updated

Danielle Roland is an Industrial Athletic Trainer for Therapy South in Birmingham, Alabama. She received her bachelor’s in Athletic Training from the University of South Florida in 2004 and master’s in Counseling from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in 2007. She currently works onsite at Lear and Eissmann (automotive companies) and Alabama Power Company doing injury prevention and functional movement screening.

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