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Preventing Heat and Hydration Related Problems in Young Athletes

Taking steps to stay healthy and hydrated this summer is especially important for athletes to avoid injuries and remain safe.

It’s summertime in the tri-state, and that means high temperatures and brutal humidity!  While taking preventative steps might not be necessary if you plan to spend the summer in the air conditioning, it is imperative for athletes—especially young athletes.  The younger the athlete, the more important it is to take steps to avoid heat related illness like dehydration or heat cramps.  Here are a few tips that will help your child stay safe while enjoying the rigors of summer sports.

Ease into the heat

It is strongly recommended to ease young athletes into the heat over a 10-14-day period.  This helps their bodies learn to adapt to the additional demands of high temperatures and high humidity during physical exertion.

Coaches, trainers, and parents need to be aware of the dangers of pushing young athletes too hard before proper adaptation has occurred.  This can lead to dehydration and heat stroke, with serious repercussions.  In fact, according to the Journal of Athletic Training, most heat related deaths in football players occurred during the first or second day of two-a-day practices.  Easing into the heat is crucially important for athletes.

Acknowledge that it’s okay to stop

Sports almost always reward the hardest working athletes, but this mentality can backfire during the hot summer months.  Athletes, particularly football players and runners, need to be aware of what their body is telling them and respond accordingly.

This means taking actions like resting or cooling off before it is too late.  If an athlete thinks they need to take a break or get a drink, they should be encouraged to do so. Thirst is one of the earliest signs of dehydration – which means athletes should be hydrating before, during and after physical activity.  This is especially true early in the summer, or once additional clothing, equipment, or pads are added to practices.

Stay hydrated, even outside of sports

Being well hydrated simply means making sure your body has an adequate amount of water.  This is crucial in preventing heat related illnesses and is important for overall health.  The amount of water your athlete requires depends on their age, size, gender, and diet.

Some research suggests that the biggest impact on hydration is the amount of water consumed the previous 24-hours.  This means if an athlete will be at practice in high temperatures all day Monday, chugging 20-oz of water on the way to practice may not help as much as staying hydrated on Sunday.  Keeping this in mind can help you encourage your athlete to stay hydrated, even on off days.

How to respond to heat related illness

Signs of heat related illness include confusion, thirst, light headedness, etc.  Similarly, vomiting, muscle cramps, goosebumps, chills, hyperventilating, and other physiological signs are indicators of dehydration or overheating and should be dealt with immediately.

When a young athlete overheats, take action and treat it like an emergency.  A delayed response may result in long-term damage to the brain or body, or even death in extreme situations.  Remove any additional equipment or pads and have them sit in an ice bath (cold water and ice) to lower their temperature if possible. Moving the athlete into shade or air conditioning and providing cool rags can also help lower their body temperature until proper medical staff can arrive. While the athlete is consuming liquids and their temperature is being lowered, call 9-1-1.

About Beacon Orthopaedics

The outstanding sports medicine team at Beacon Orthopaedics provides medical care and supervision for over 30 local high schools and five college athletic programs.  Additionally, hundreds of athletes are cared for via Beacon’s athletic trainers and physician coverage of extracurricular youth sports (click here for a full list).

With appointment availability Monday through Friday and walk-in Orthopaedic Urgent Care hours, you can see a physician when it fits your schedule.  Contact Beacon Orthopaedics by phone 24/7 at (513) 354-3700 or schedule an appointment online at your convenience at