The heat is hitting Alabama early, and the hottest day of the year has local sports and medical professionals concerned for student athletes’ safety.
Montgomery sports trainers say the last time an area athlete died of heat exhaustion was a Huntington college football player back in 2008. In fact, doctors say heat illness is the biggest injury on the field this time of year, but it can be avoided.
Jackson Hospital’s Sports Medicine department says the biggest misconception is that water and Gatorade are enough for athletes to stay hydrated. According to Sylvia Thompson, Patient Care Manager at Jackson Hospital’s Sports Medicine department, schools need to have an emergency heat stroke plan. “Now it’s not transport first and treat, its treat and transport,” Thompson said.
“Being in this type of temperature is very, very dangerous and things can get bad very quickly, so education and prevention is of the utmost importance,” said Robert John, the Area Vice President of Rehab Associates in Montgomery.
In fact the heat is so dangerous, it’s deadly.
“If you're not treated within the first 10 minutes, your chance of fatality is really big,” Thompson said.
Physical therapist and sports trainer Brent Vinson works with athletes in Elmore County and says no matter the sport, coaches need to be aware of their players, especially in this kind of heat.
“If you know your players and you try to make that part of your care, is to really get to know your players' personalities, you can tell when they are not acting right,” Vinson said.
Thompson says there are a number of things for coaches and trainers to look at in athletes prone to heat stroke. “A drenched jersey means you have to change that jersey again. Because once it’s drenched you can’t sweat anymore,” Thompson said. “You got to have a cool area for your kids to go in and drink those fluids and cool down.”
Coaches and trainers say it’s just as important for parents to prepare their children ahead of time, especially acclimating them to the heat well before practices and/or games.
“Make sure to hydrate and eat well at night, get plenty of rest, those are all things that are common sense, but not practiced,” Vinson said.
Thompson said athletes, especially football players, are most likely to suffer heat stroke during the first four days of practice.