Several recent deaths of student-athletes nationwide are attributed to the extreme heat, and while Iowa’s weather is cooler lately, plenty of hot summer days are still ahead. Danelle Schlegelmilch, spokeswoman for the Heartland Chapter of the American Red Cross, says Iowa coaches, parents and students need to be reminded about the risks of pushing it while being under the sun.
“We want to make sure everyone is keeping lots of fluids and sports drinks with electrolytes before, during and after activities,” she says. “Also, avoid caffeine and alcohol. Remember, when it’s extra hot out, try to schedule practices around that heat. Have it early in the morning or later in the evening so you’re not out there in the most intense part of the day.”
Schlegelmilch says coaches and student-athletes need to know the signs of heat-related emergencies and how to help someone who is suffering from the heat. “Heat stroke is life-threatening,” she says. “It’s when you body’s temperature can’t control itself. It kind of shuts off and it can’t cool itself down. You really need to make sure if you’re suffering those signs, red skin, lose consciousness, have seizures, vomiting, call 9-1-1 immediately because it is life-threatening and nothing to mess around with.”
Schlegelmilch says it’s also very important that student-athletes know when their bodies have had enough and they need to stop the work out. “If you can’t keep yourself safe and healthy, you’re not going to be able to get in there on game day,” she says. “So, if you’re having heat cramps, exhaustion, if you’re not feeling well, dizzy, nauseous, weak, you need to really make sure you let your parents and coaches know. You may be taken out for, not even a day, but for the whole season. It could be very serious.”
During the hot weather, team practices should be scheduled early in the day and frequent breaks should be a regular part of the session. She also recommends reducing the amount of heavy equipment, like football pads, during very hot, humid weather.