Steps to treat heat illnesses

By: Justin Carroll AT, ATC
Athletic Trainer - Jonesville High School
Orthopaedic Rehab Specialists- Jonesville

With school starting shortly and fall sports starting up, there will be a lot more athletes competing at multiple locations at the same time. Coaches, athletic trainers, and parents need to be on a look out for heat related injuries. Not only do they need to know the signs and symptoms but they also need to know how to treat them and when the athlete may be able to return to play after having sustained a heat related injury.

Heat cramps are a fairly common and most of the time are due to an electrolyte imbalance. Signs and symptoms may include profuse sweating, obvious muscle cramping. Treatment for muscle cramps includes rehydrating the athlete and stretching the involved muscle. Return to play depends on the severity of the cramp most of the time they are able to return same day but there are times that the athlete is not able to return.

Heat exhaustion is when the body’s core temperature between 101- 104 degrees with no central nervous system (CNS) dysfunction. Signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion may include:  nausea, vomiting, dizziness, irritability, headache, weakness, thirst, and profuse sweating. Treatment should include moving the athlete to a cool area removing excess clothing and equipment, cooling athlete with cold towels or ice water bath monitoring vitals and have the athlete seen by a physician that day. Athlete must be cleared a doctor and reacclimated to the climate before they are allowed to return to play.

Heat stroke is the most serious heat illness it is cause when the core body temperature is greater than 104 and the athlete has CNS dysfunction. Signs and symptoms of heat stroke include loss of consciousness, no sweating, mental confusion, and headache. Treatment should include rapid body cooling (best is full body submerging in ice water), activate EMS, and monitoring vitals. Return to play after heat stroke includes: physician clearance, athlete should has no residual effects of the heat stroke, and re-acclimating the athlete to the environment.