Illness risk increases as temps rise

By Lisa Burnett Originally Published May 23, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.
Updated May 22, 2013 at 10:16 a.m.
0 Comments A A Font Size
James K. Joslin

Harding Academy catcher Shelby Gowen listens to instructions from her coach during a recent game. Heat causes risks for athletes, as a rise in temperature can increase health concerns.

As temperatures rise and summer draws near, sports practices head outside, but with those skyrocketing temperatures, the risk of heat-related illnesses increases.

According to the Arkansas Department of Health, 17 Arkansans died as a result of heat-related illnesses in 2011.

Heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heatstroke can occur from prolonged exposure to the extreme heat that accompanies an Arkansas summer.

Many sports teams from schools across the Three Rivers Edition coverage area are gearing up for another sweltering summer.

With football season starting right at the end of summer, football teams will be in the midst of preseason preparations. That means weightlifting sessions, 7-on-7 outings and the dreaded two-a-day practices that mark the beginning of August.

Jason Cates, head athletic trainer for Cabot Public Schools, said the key to preventing heat-related illness is hydration.

Water is important, and sports drinks such as Gatorade and Powerade provide athletes with the electrolytes they need to push through those hot summer practices.

Cates said all coaches in Arkansas are taught the warning signs to look for when students are outside practicing sports.

“We teach them to look for excessive sweating, lack of sweating, nausea or vomiting,” Cates said. “There are several ways that you can beat [heat-related illness].”

Even though school is out for the summer, students who participate in summer activities need to make sure they’re getting enough sleep, Cates said.

“They need to make sure they are getting at least eight hours of sleep,” Cates said.

Another tip Cates said for athletes to consider is to always have something to eat before practice.

“If you’re not putting fuel into your body, it’s not going to run very efficiently,” Cates said. “You can’t show up to practice on an empty stomach.”

Student athletes at Cabot are provided with peanut-butter sandwiches during practice.

“They’re a really quick, inexpensive fuel source,” Cates said.

Dr. Joey Walters, deputy executive director of the Arkansas Activities Association, said heat-related illnesses are the only preventable sports-related injury.

Walters said there are guidelines in how long practices can be during the summer.

“In the first week of practice, no practice can be longer than three hours,” Walters said.

Acclimation to the extreme heat also reduces the risk of heat-related illness, Walters said. The first five days of practice cannot involve contact of any sort, and no pads should be worn by players, Walters said.

More information on heat-related illnesses is available on the Arkansas Department of Health’s website,

Staff writer Lisa Burnett can be reached at (501) 244-4307 or

Online News Editor Lisa Burnett can be reached at

To report abuse or misuse of this area please hit the "Suggest Removal" link in the comment to alert our online managers. Read our Terms of Use policy.

Subscribe Register Login

You must login to make comments.