Last Modified: Saturday, July 07, 2012 9:29 PM
In the dog days of summer, excessive heat is often the enemy to high school and college athletes.
Teams in Louisiana know this firsthand, as the area’s perennially hot and humid summer weather make proper education and precaution in the heat all the more critical.
McNeese State head strength coach Zeb Hawkins said staying hydrated by drinking water is the first line of defense against heat-related illness such as heat exhaustion, cramps, dehydration and heat stroke. He said that’s one of the messages he gives to the McNeese football team during summer workouts as the players combat the heat that strikes the turf.
“In the heat of the day the turf is actually 25 to 30 degrees warmer than the actual temperature outside,” Hawkins said. “Our training staff keeps a full water supply, and we really preach to them to hydrate before they get here. Our conditioning days are done at 6 a.m. for 45 minutes to an hour when the temperature and humidity are lower for safety precautions.”
A person is at risk for heat stroke when his or her core body temperature rises above 106 degrees, according to Jamey Rasberry, director of sports medicine at Lake Charles Memorial Hospital and head athletic trainer at Barbe, Iowa and Bell City high schools.
Rasberry said the process of healthy hydration for athletes isn’t limited to game days or workout days.
“When you go to a sporting event, you can’t start drinking water an hour before the game and be ready,” he said. “You have to start hours, even days, before. Once you get dehydrated, it takes a while to rehydrate.”
In Louisiana Life magazine this month, an article reports health care workers in Shreveport recently were trained to use a new cooling suit developed by a cardiologist from Alexandria that people with heat stroke put on to assuage their symptoms. The article describes the device as an inflatable plastic suit through which cold water is pumped in and out of their bodies and then much of the built-up heat in their bodies is released along with the water.
Rasberry said Lake Area athletic trainers don’t necessarily have cooling suits for players, but they provide other effective equipment that get the job done to fight the battle against the heat.
“We have fans and misters and cold towels, different stuff like that, it’s basically the same thing (as cooling suits),” Rasberry said.
Hawkins said it’s dangerous for athletes to ignore signs of heat-related illness, including dizziness, nausea, headaches, pale or clammy skin and lack of sweating. When any of those symptoms arise, he said it’s imperative for the athlete to alert the training staff right away.
“We really try to educate our athletes,” Hawkins said. “If they start to feel dizzy or lightheaded, let us know and we’ll let them sit out, don’t take a chance of an athlete passing out. During the summer we take a little bit longer breaks.”
Rasberry said heat stroke is life-threatening, particularly if symptoms go untreated. The dangers of heat exposure have surfaced nationwide this summer, as several states in the Midwest have experienced record-high temperatures this month. Last year in Georgia, two 16-year-old high school football players died of heat-related injuries. One collapsed leaving the practice field.
Rasberry said educating athletes and coaches about the dangers of heat is crucial. And if an athlete stops sweating, then it’s time to take immediate emergency action.
“If you quit sweating, your body is becoming so hot inside it has no way of cooling itself off,” he said. “You could go into cardiac arrest. Call 911.”
Rasberry said precautions and treatment for heat-related illness on the high school athletic level are on par with those at the college level in the Lake Area. Hawkins acknowledged the need to be vigilant in the scorching heat and humidity isn’t going anywhere for anyone, particularly with August training camp approaching.
“You live in South Louisiana so when you wake up you know it’s gonna be hot,” Hawkins said. “It’s scary that they may not have put in enough calories for the day or aren’t eating before. We help advise the kids all the way around ... it’s more publicized now. Water is still the best thing for you.
“Our job is not to run every kid until they pass out, but our job is to get them in better shape for football season.”
The dogged summer heat is one of the most difficult opponents in that preparation.
PHOENIX (AP) -- People in Phoenix have learned a thing or two about surviving scorching summer days. For those in other parts of the country who aren’t used to hearing the weather man say, “It’ll be cooling down to 105 tomorrow,” here are a few unique tips from the Valley of the Sun:
• KEEP YOUR RIDE COOL: Those cumbersome windshield reflectors are your new best friend. And if you have young children, buy an extra one to strap over a car seat to keep metal clasps from heating up in the sun as your car sits in the parking lot. You might even throw an ice pack or frozen water bottle in the seat to keep it cool for little ones while you shop.
• GET CREATIVE ABOUT SLEEPING ARRANGEMENTS: Set up beds on a porch or backyard. Or just sleep in the shade, during the heat of the day.
• AVOID THE SUN: Sure, sunscreen helps. But you can avoid it altogether by waking up and doing yard work before sunrise or going for your daily run at midnight.
• THINK BEFORE YOU TOUCH: Any surface that sits in the sun could be hot enough to burn. There’s no shame in using pot holders to open doors. Also, carry a towel to put on hot seats, and keep curtains pulled tight to block out the rays.
• WATER IS YOUR FRIEND: Drink it. Swim in it. Spray it on your face. In Phoenix, shopping centers and cafes greet visitors by showering them with a fine, cool mist. You can get the same effect by filling a spray bottle with water.
• KEEP YOUR SENSE OF HUMOR: And if all this talk about smoldering temperatures is getting you down, look on the bright side. You can always bake cookies on the dashboard of your car. We really do that.