Sports Injuries: Prevention Is Key
By Jessica Poole, Certified Athletic Trainer
The job of a certified athletic trainer (ATC) is to prevent injury. If we prevent, there are no injuries to treat. I have experienced three-a-day practices in 95 degree, 80 percent humidity weather and haven’t had a single heat illness in my athletes.
Today I want to share with you the many ways we can go about preventing heat illness or lessening the severity of heat illnesses. I don’t know about you, but I want to enjoy the sun and warmth. I want to go out and play with my kids, turn out a hard and satisfying day’s work, go for a nice warm mountain run, not puke due to dehydration. So, how do we prevent heat illnesses?
I’m glad you asked…
Doctor clearance. Make sure you have been cleared by your doctor to exercise in the heat and humidity. For example, if you take a diuretic, the heat and humidity may pose a hydration issue. Those with a past history of heat issues are at a higher risk of sustaining another heat injury. Make sure your doctor okays your activity.
Adjust. In athletic training land, we call this acclimatization. It takes 10-14 days to fully adapt to hot and humid temperatures. If temperatures suddenly increase, decrease your intensity and time in the heat until you acclimate. If you typically exercise in a warm environment daily and there is a gradual increase in temperature (as with weather warm ups), then you naturally acclimate. If you suddenly change temps from cool to hot and humid, you must adjust. Think about how it feels to switch from workouts in the chilly air conditioning to working out in Atlanta’s full heat and humidity, or leaving a cool or warm/dry environment and traveling to a hot and humid one, like Chicago to Miami in April. The same is true if you are sedentary or do only low impact exercise indoors and suddenly increase intensity and train outdoors in August.
Take it slow, adjust to the heat and then raise your time and intensity.
Attire. Workout attire should be lightweight, light-colored, breathable, loose fitting and comfortable. The more skin exposed, the more sweat can be evaporated thus cooling the body (I do not advocate, nor is this an endorsement for nude exercise). With fabric technology, everyone from Walmart and Target to Adidas, Under Armor and Nike have sweat-wicking workout gear at affordable prices. These fabrics pull moisture away from the skin and allow for evaporation. Socks, shorts, tops and undergarments are all moisture-wicking and keep you cool. Avoid cotton, as it soaks moisture, but does not release it to allow for evaporation. Evaporation of sweat is key, as it is the most effective mechanism for cooling the body.
Education. Know the illnesses and the symptoms that go along with each. You will be able to recognize problems before they become life threatening.
Finally…. HYDRATE!!! 64-80 ounces of fluid (a mix of water, fruit juices, milk, etc…) is the dietary recommendation. When exercising or working for a long time or at a high intensity in hot and humid conditions, it is recommended to consume an additional 64 ounces of fluid. That is roughly 2, 2 liter soda bottles of fluid. This should be consumed over a 24 hour period of time. I track it from the end of one exercise session to the next. Avoid caffeine and alcohol, as they tend to have a diuretic effect. Also, a diet rich in foods with high water content is helpful (melons, tomatoes, lettuce, citrus, broth, etc.) In my next blog post I will be providing a detailed hydration breakdown and my opinions on what type of fluid is best when trying to rehydrate. So stay tuned.
I hope this info helps you prevent heat issues. Remember, hydrate and seek medical care if you have any concerns or exhibit symptoms of heat illness.
Now, grab a Gatorade and stay healthy my friends.
Binkley, H. M., Beckett, J., Casa, D. J., Kleiner, D. M., & Plummer, P. E. (2002). National Athletic Trainers' Association position statement: exertional heat illnesses. Journal of Athletic Training, 37(3), 329.
Casa, D. J., Armstrong, L. E., Hillman, S. K., Montain, S. J., Reiff, R. V., Rich, B. S., ... & Stone, J. A. (2000). National Athletic Trainers' Association position statement: fluid replacement for athletes. Journal of athletic training, 35(2), 212.