With the hot summer sun beating down on Connecticut with dangerous heat indexes this week, staying safe in the sweltering heat should be a top priority for athletes. One way to ensure safety is by learning how to recognize and prevent heat stroke.
According to the University of Connecticut’s Korey Stringer Institute (KSI)–named after the Minnesota Vikings football player who died due to heat stroke in 2001– heat stroke is one of the top causes of sudden death among athletes. A recent CDC study reported over eight thousand heat related deaths from 1999 to 2010, nearly 40 percent of which occurred during the month of July.
There are several ways to prevent heat stroke and to spot signs of it in yourself or others.
- Rectal temperature over 104-105 degrees
- Dizziness/disoriented/loss of balance
- Changes in behavior (irrational, irritable, etc)
- Excessive sweating
- Rapid pulse/low blood pressure
- Muscle cramps
Luke Beval, KSI’s director of research, says the first 30 minutes are the most crucial when treating heat stroke.
“This timeframe is what really makes a difference,” said Beval in a statement. “The sooner you cool someone, the greater their chances of survival.”
KSI says athletes suffering from heat stroke must be cooled immediately. The best method for cooling an overheated athlete is an ice-cold water bath. The institute notes that cooling must continue while you wait for an ambulance and other emergency services, and that an athlete’s temperature should drop to around 101 degrees before being transported.
Related: Steamy temperatures carry heart risk
Ideally, athletes and coaches can prevent heat stroke or any other heat-related illnesses before any symptoms arise.
Drinking plenty of fluids to stay hydrated is the most obvious form of prevention. Also, the institute recommends athletes wear loose-fitting or sweat wicking clothing, loosen up in the shade, avoid activity during the hottest part of the day (10am-5pm), exercise indoors, and alter the intensity of workouts.
With these tips, athletes can focus on working hard and having fun in a safe (and cool) way.