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5 tips for a safer practice in the heat


Written by Dannielle Koran, LAT, Mercy Whitewater Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation Center

1)    Pre-condition

Prepare and encourage your athletes to conditioning in the heat at least two weeks before the first practice. Acclimating to the heat will allow the body to cool more efficiently by increasing sweat production.

2)    Proper attire

Encourage athletes to wear light-colored clothing. Dark colors attract the sun’s rays, increasing body heat. Have athletes bring a change of clothing for longer events or wear clothing designed for hot weather exercise.  A t-shirt that is soaking wet from perspiration does not allow the sweat to evaporate from the skin. Evaporation is key in cooling the body.

3)    Avoid unusually hot/humid days

Modifications to practice must occur when the heat index is 95 to 99 degrees Fahrenheit (e.g. removal of any pads or equipment during non-contact times and scheduling of practice for early or later in the day to avoid peak sun time).

Further modifications must be made when the heat index is 99 to 104 degrees Fahrenheit (e.g. scheduled time for athletes to change into dry clothes and reduction in practice time). If the heat index is above 104 degrees, physical activity should be stopped.

4)    Water breaks

Dehydration can have a direct affect on performance and fatigue. Athletes should be well hydrated before practice and continue hydrating during and after physical activity. Longer workout sessions need more frequent breaks for water (e.g. 10 minute water break, in the shade if possible, for every 30-45 minutes of activity).

A 6% carbohydrate solution (e.g. Gatorade) will help supplement energy lost and help to improve performance when consumed during workouts lasting longer than 45 minutes. One indication as to how well hydrated a person is, is the color of their urine. A well-hydrated individual should have urine the color of lemonade, not apple cider.  Another indicator of hydration is the athlete’s ability to maintain body weight from one practice to the next. You can monitor weight loss by weighing athletes before the start of each practice.

5)    Recognize signs of heat related injury

Heat illness and dehydration will usually strike first and display the following warning signs:

  • Thirst
  • Irritability
  • Headache
  • Cramps
  • Nausea
  • Decreased performance
  • Dizziness
  • Weakness
  • Vomiting

An athlete with these signs should be removed from activity and moved to a cool location and given fluids.

A more serious form of heat injury is exertional heat stroke. Heat stroke causes the body temperature to rise dangerously high and may result in death. Heat stroke symptoms include an altered mental state, confusion, seizures and coma. Immediately stop activity and activate your emergency action plan for immediate medical attention for the athlete. Begin rapid cooling of the athlete as soon as possible using ice bags, ice towels, ice bath and remove athlete from direct sunlight exposure.


1)    Gardner, R., Charles, K. Preventing Heat Illness Must be No.1 Priority. www.nfhs.org/hstoday.

2)    WIAA website: http://www.wiaawi.org/Health/HeatInformation.aspx.