When athletes train during the hot summer months, it’s crucial for them to be physically prepared for the training. Heat is a big enemy for athletes who play under extreme temperature, and its effects are not a simple matter. A simple rise of temperature can cause a fall on an athlete’s performance.
What Happens During Heat Stress
Your body normally cools itself by sweating. During hot weather, especially with high humidity, sweating just isn’t enough. Body temperature rises to dangerous levels and can lead to heat-related illness. This happens if you stay in the heat for too long.
As your body works to cool itself under extreme heat, blood rushes to the surface of your skin. There would be less blood to go to your brain, muscles, and other organs. This can affect your physical strength and mental capacity, which can potentially lead to serious danger.
Different Types of Heat-Related Illness
Heat-related illnesses come in different forms. These can be heat exhaustion, heat cramps, and heat stroke.
Heat cramps are brief, painful muscle cramps in the legs, arms, or abdomen that may occur during or after vigorous activity in extreme heat. Your body sweats and loses salts and fluids. When your body’s salt level is low, your muscles have a tendency to cramp. Although painful, heat cramps aren’t serious by themselves. But they are the first signs of serious heat illness, so they should be treated at once to prevent more serious problems.
Heat exhaustion is more severe than heat cramps. Just like heat cramps, it results from a loss of fluid and salt in the body. It occurs in conditions of extreme heat and excessive sweating without enough fluid and salt replacement. The body is unable to cool itself properly and can progress to heat stroke if left untreated.
Heat stroke is the most serious form of heat injury. It can occur if your body temperature rises to 104 °F (40 °C) or higher. Skin may be hot, red, dry, or moist and the pulse can be rapid and strong. Heat stroke may also lead to unconsciousness. It requires emergency treatment. Untreated heat stroke can quickly damage your brain, heart, kidneys, and muscles. Delayed treatment can increase risk of serious complications or death.
Preventing and Minimising Heat Illness
The risk for developing heat illness is high when you’re at extreme temperature for too long and if you don’t supply your body with enough fluid. To minimise the chances of heat illness, here are some ways that can help:
- Proper training for extreme temperatures
- Fluid replacement before, during, and after activity
- Appropriate clothing such as light colored, loose fitting, and one layered garment
- Direct monitoring of athletes by co-players, coaches, and medical staff
- Monitoring the intensity of physical activity that suits for fitness and the athlete’s acclimatisation status
- Presence of medical team during events and practices
- Rescheduling of training sessions for another time when temperature is more comfortable
- Taking breaks in cool, shaded areas
- Removing equipment during breaks
A qualified health professional such as a physiotherapist is best able to assess the athlete and construct appropriate management plan fit for the athlete’s circumstances. A health care professional can help you determine how to return to activity if you were struck down by heat illness.
We know you’re dedicated to your training, but it doesn’t hurt to stop for awhile, take a rest under a cool shade and have a nice bottle of water to drink. Stay cool, stay hydrated, and more importantly, stay safe! Call i Physio Perth at 9444 8729 today!