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Examiner
  • Tim Crone: Athletes must play it safe with heat

  • It is crucial for everyone involved in high school athletics to be aware that exertional heat stroke is the leading cause of death among high school athletes.

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  • It is crucial for everyone involved in high school athletics to be aware that exertional heat stroke is the leading cause of death among high school athletes.
    Each year I write about the approaching high school fall sports season and the effects of the dog days of summer on high school athletes who are beginning to practice for the season. This information is relevant to all students who practice in the heat – athletes, band members, dance teams, etc.
    My greatest concern as a coach and particularly as an activities director was for student safety during extreme heat. I have personally experienced two heat strokes and was fortunate in both situations to have immediate medical care.
    All who are involved with activity in the heat need to be aware of the signs and symptoms of heat related illnesses. The Missouri State High School Activities Association has done a superior job of providing school personnel and student participants with an extensive set of safety guidelines.
    Fortunately, the old days of salt tablets and no water breaks are long gone. MSHSAA has also enacted a 16-day acclimation policy that is strictly enforced.
    Heat-related information and policies can be found on the MSHSAA website, www.mshsaa.org. The following are just a few of the basics to follow:
    1. Appropriate hydration before, during and after physical activity is an important ingredient to healthy and successful sports participation. You should begin hydrating as early as two weeks before the season starts with proper fluid intake. That means stay away from soft drinks and juices with sugar. Your best choice should be water. However, some sports drinks with an appropriate carbohydrate and sodium formulation may provide additional benefits in the following general situations: Prolonged continuous or intermittent activity of greater than 45 minutes; intense, continuous or repeated exertion; and warm to hot and humid conditions.
    2. The best rule to follow is to monitor weight loss during exercise and other physical activity. The loss of body water is key. A body weight loss of just 1-2 percent, which is 1.5 to 3 pounds for a 150-pound athlete, can negatively impact performance. A body weight loss of 3 percent or more can significantly increase the risk for exertional heat-related illness. If an athlete is already dehydrated prior to beginning activity, these effects will occur even sooner. Athletes should be weighed in shorts and T-shirts before and after warm or hot weather practice sessions/contests to assess their hydration status.
    3. Athletes should stay away from clothing that is dark or bulky, as well as protective equipment such as helmets, shoulder pads, and other padding and coverings. These can increase body temperature, sweat loss and subsequent dehydration and risk of heat illness.
    The 16-day acclimation period has been needed for many years. Current youth tend to spend an inordinate amount of time indoors, in air-conditioning, playing video and computer games. This makes them especially vulnerable to overheating.
    Page 2 of 3 - The heat index (combination of temperature and humidity) is the best barometer of excessive heat. If the heat index is between 95 and 105 degrees, practices and game conditions should be altered. If the heat index is over 105, a practice or contest should be postponed or rescheduled.
    Each school should have an on-site wet-bulb temperature gauge, which should be measured 10 to 15 minutes before practices or contests. The results should be combined with a heat index to determine if practices/contests should be started, modified or stopped. If a school does not have a wet-bulb temperature measurement available, the heat index for your approximate location can be determined by entering your postal zip code at http://www.osaa.org/heatindex/.
    A scenario on the website is of a relative humidity of 40 percent combined with a temperature of 95 degrees – can likely be associated with a risk of incurring heat illness should strenuous physical activity be conducted.
    Even with a lower air temperature of 85 degrees, the risk for exertional heat illness could be the same or greater with a higher relative humidity of 70 percent.
    One regret I have from my career as a coach and athletic director is that we should have done more to protect our student-athletes in the very serious situation of playing and practicing in the heat. Reminder to everyone – these are games and should never lead to the risk of a life-threatening event.
    n The hardest job in baseball has to Ryan Lefebvre doing the play-by-play with Rex Hudler. Amazing!
    n Probably the greatest seven shots in a row made in the history of major tournament golf occurred last Sunday when Lefty – Phil Mickelson – won the British Open. Great, great stuff!
    n I am a big Chiefs guy, so my preseason pick is 9-7. I know most of the other fans think I am nuts, but we need to turn the corner.
    n I always talk about coaches and athletes and their responsibility to conduct themselves appropriately. I was seated in front of a fan at one of the Royals games against Detroit who had NO CLUE ABOUT BASEBALL. I know she paid her money to get into the game like the rest of us, but really?! She seemed to think she was as knowledgeable as Casey Stengel.
    n My quote of the week comes from NFL Hall of Fame coach and owner Paul Brown: “Class always shows.”
    Tim Crone, a William Chrisman High School graduate, is a former activities director and coach for Blue Springs High School and is a host of a weekly radio show, “Off the Wall with Tim Crone,” on KCWJ (1030 AM) 5-6 p.m. every Tuesday. He writes a weekly column for The Examiner. Reach him at t.crone@comcast.net
     
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