WORCESTER, Mass., July 16, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- As the Northeast experiences its third heat wave and temperatures around the country continue to heat up this summer, The Hanover Insurance Group today released suggestions to help organizers of athletic camps and programs, as well as parents, keep youth safe from heat-related injuries, which can cause serious illness and even death.
Heat exhaustion has emerged as a serious and even deadly threat among young athletes, particularly during the summer when many athletes are preparing for fall sports and practicing hard in the sun.
"Athletics are designed to be enjoyable, healthy activities for students, but without the education and the right precautions in place, heat can turn a fun activity into a nightmare," said Michael J. Billings, vice president of loss control programs at The Hanover. "Camp organizers, coaches, athletes and parents can be more confident when athletic groups and schools have a clear plan in place for dealing with extreme heat and that they follow those guidelines to help maintain a safe environment for young athletes."Of all the heat-related illnesses, heat exhaustion and heat stroke are the most dangerous. Symptoms of heat exhaustion include headache, nausea, muscle cramps, difficulty breathing, confusion and dizziness. If left untreated, body systems and organs begin to shut down. To help those people who are facilitating athletics practices avoid the risk of heat-related illnesses, The Hanover suggests a Hot Weather Plan be adopted by amateur sport organizations. "These procedures, when followed correctly, can save lives. Parents shouldn't hesitate to inquire about a Hot Weather Plan to help ensure the safety of their children on the field," said Billings. Suggested Hot Weather Plan should include:
- Comprehensive training for athletics staff to recognize signs of heat illness and provide appropriate response techniques. Never practice without qualified staff on the field that can both recognize the signs of heat-related issues and immediately treat them.
- Guidelines for measuring and reacting to temperature and humidity levels. Clear guidelines allow for everyone to be on the same page. For instance, reducing activities when the heat index is at or tops 95 and cutting off activities at an index of 105.
- Providing participants with frequent water breaks, and a trip to the scales at the beginning and end of each practice session. Water intake is important. If a player's weight drops 3 percent or more, it's considered a sign of dehydration; losses of 5 percent could be seen as an indicator of heat-related illness.
- A plan for reacting to heat stroke emergencies including body-cooling arrangements. If a heat illness is suspected, immediately remove the athlete to a shady or air-conditioned area. Provide cold drinks, loosen clothing, and spray or sponge with cool water. Cooling should continue even if an ambulance is called, as the body may only withstand heat illness for about 30 minutes.
- Plan on giving athletes' bodies time to acclimatize to the environment and heat stresses. To decrease the number of heat-related illnesses, the National Collegiate Athletic Association recently instituted a mandatory five day acclimatization period. The intent is that practice intensity level and duration in this period should be increased gradually.