A grueling football tradition called “hell week” will be played out all over Orange County middle and high schools this summer. It’s designed to get players in shape for the upcoming football season. But with record high temperatures predicated across California this summer, coaches and schools should be more concerned about heat-related sport injuries than creating sport stars. Last year heat-related deaths among middle school, high and college athletes were at their highest level according to new statistics.
Here in Orange County we have seen our share of tragic youth deaths. One in particular was a rising young star named Kenny Wilson. Only two days into the training schedule, the temperature hovered about 90 degrees as he and his high school teammates were practicing when he suddenly collapsed. By the time the paramedics had arrived, he had gone into cardiac arrest. By all accounts Kenny was a strong, young 16 year old who played multiple sports and was healthy. Unfortunately, several other athletes across the country have died and thousands more have been sent to emergency rooms because of heat related sport personal injuries.
Orange County school districts have since reviewed their summer policies of heavy sports’ workouts. Fainting episodes, vomiting and dizziness are all a part of sports training, but when the temperature rises, there needs to more than just occasional water or Gatorade breaks for the athletes. There needs to be a change in the sports’ mentality that allows kids not to feel pressured to complain of illness during a practice. Schools need to focus on heatstroke as a serious injury and not just something that happens to weak people.
Heat exhaustion, with heavy sweating and cramps can quickly turn deadly into heatstroke. Heatstroke happens when a series of events happen within the body once your inner core temperature reaches 104 degrees. First vascular shock occurs which reduces blood flow to the brain. Then an irregular pulse triggers a heart attack. Lastly, blood clots start to form and then kidney failure occurs.
The Sports Injury Advisory Group has created some recommendations for sport activities’ coordinators as well as concerned parents so that they can safeguard their children’s sport programs, especially in the summer.
· Acclimate to heat gradually. The first seven days of practice should be early; avoid practices in the afternoon when the heat is most intense.
· Pay attention to the humidity Index. If the sum of the temperature and humidity are equal to 160, precautions should be taken. If it is greater than 180, practice should be suspended.
· Take regular breaks. Stay hydrated and rest in shady areas. Rest period should occur 15 minutes for each hour of practice and be mandatory.
· Unlimited quantities of water should be provided to the athletes. Athletes should routinely drink plenty of water prior to workouts, and then drink at least a half a bottle at every break. Afterwards, at least one cup of water for each hour of activity.
Lastly, as parents you can do your homework as far as asking the right questions about your child’s sport program:
· Does the sport facility have a health care team?
· Is their on-site medical care provided if a child is injured?
· Is my child physically and mentally prepared for this sport?
· Does the team have an emergency plan in place? How would you be notified if your child is injured?
If your child has been injured in any type of serious sport-related injury, you probably have a lot of questions about what to do. Contact a professional personal injury attorney and empower yourself with the right information.