Each August we have some extreme heats in our state, especially in the central and southern parts of Alabama. Here are some quick reminders for coaches about being prepared and training your staff to deal with heat issues that may arise at your practices.
1) Know all of your athlete's medical histories and monitor those who fall into the high risk categories- previous heat issues, recently ill, heavier athletes, extremely muscular athletes, those with sickle cell trait or those who may have recently transferred in and may not be heat acclimated. Any player who has not been through a summer conditioning program could be in jeopardy.
2) During extremely hot and humid days, allow for extra breaks and have plenty of water and sports drink available. Have managers keep water bottles filled and go from group to group giving fluids to players as they practice.
3) Modify activities as heat and humidity dictates. Humid days may require more walk throughs, alternating slow periods with higher activity periods, etc. Teams that have a limited number of players must be especially mindful of these days of high heat index. Cut practice time down or dress in shells if necessary.
4) All members of your staff should know the signs and symptoms of heat illness- Nausea, vomiting, dizziness, confusion, excessive sweating, extreme fatigue, weak and rapid pulse, coordination problems, headache, muscle cramps.
5) Make sure to have a cool zone with shade, ice towels, fans, ice tubs, etc. to cool them off quickly if necessary.
6) Have an emergency action plan and practice it.
7) If your team does not have a trainer at practices, educate a coach on the staff as the heat and hydration expert and give him the tools he needs to do the job. Community leaders will normally be very helpful about helping to get the items you need to help deter heat illness at your school.
7) Promote and educate players and parents about hydration--
a) Athletes need to come to practice fully hydrated, taking in extra fluids at home or school before hand.
b) They must replace lost fluids after practice.
c) Parents and athletes should monitor weight as well as urine color to help determine hydration levels.
Knowing these safety precautions and practicing them could certainly save an athlete's life.