Sports and Heatstroke
Participating in sports in Arizona means you accept the challenges that come with playing in the heat. Many athletes choose to exercise in the early morning hours or later at night as the sun goes down. They pack plenty of water and electrolyte drinks and remember to rest in the shade whenever possible. If they can, they wear hats and sunglasses and cool themselves with cold water during breaks. Whether playing soccer, football, tennis, or training for a marathon, Arizona athletes try to be aware of how their bodies are feeling and whether they are overheating.
Sometimes, athletes are injured when they are under the supervision of a coach who isn’t watching for the warning signs. While most coaches are aware of the dangers of overheating, some aren’t and don’t take the necessary precautions to protect their teams.
How Heatstroke Happens
Heatstroke begins when the body temperature begins to rise to dangerous levels, and doesn’t cool down. When someone experiences heatstroke or other heat-related injuries, they risk major organ and brain failure as their body works overtime to cool itself down. Athletes are especially susceptible to heatstroke because they are exerting themselves and raising their core body temperature even before the sun adds heat.
A person exhibiting signs of heat stroke has a higher temperature and also might experience:
• irregular heartbeat
• changes in skin tone and color
• clammy hands
• extreme thirst
Where Heatstroke Happens
Heatstroke can happen anywhere, even inside a building that lacks a sufficient cooling system. Athletes might experience heat injuries inside hot gyms or event centers or outside in parks like the Arizona Sports Complex, Sports Park Tucson or Victory Lane Sports Park in Glendale. High school and college athletes can also be injured at school, in their sports fields. Hikers and bicyclists might experience heatstroke while out on the trail or the road.
Wherever you are, if you experience any of the heat injury symptoms listed above, get in a cool, shady place immediately, let your coach know and call 911. Sip cool water and use excess water to cool down your neck and forehead. Remove any excess clothing and fan yourself while you wait for medical help.
Heat injuries should be taken very seriously as they can lead to serious injuries and death. If you supervise or coach athletes of any age and ability, you should always watch for the warning signs of heatstroke and take precautions to avoid it. Plan your practices in the cooler parts of the day where your team has plenty of access to shade and water. Remind your students to check themselves for signs of overheating and to stay hydrated during the entire practice and throughout the rest of the day. Encourage them to wear athletic clothing that protects them from the sun, allows for good airflow and wicks moisture away from the skin to help cool it more quickly. Require that they come to practice with plenty of water and an electrolyte snack to help balance their systems.
If you or a loved one is injured in a heat-related injury, let us know. We will meet with you for free and determine whether you have a personal injury claim.
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Confidentially reviewed by Attorney Mark Breyer