A Guide to Heat Acclimatization and Heat Illness Prevention
- Recognize that Exertional Heatstroke (EHS) is the leading preventable cause of death among athletes.
- Know the importance of a formal pre-season heat acclimatization plan.
- Know the importance of having and implementing a specific hydration plan, keeping your athletes well-hydrated, and providing ample opportunities for, and encouraging, regular fluid replacement.
- Know the importance of appropriately modifying activities in relation to the environmental heat stress and contributing risk factors (e.g., illness, overweight) to keep your athletes safe and performing well.
- Know the importance for all staff to closely monitor all athletes during practice and training in the heat, and recognize the signs and symptoms of developing heat illness.
- Know the importance of, and resources for, establishing an Emergency Action Plan and promptly implementing it in case of suspected EHS or other medical emergency.
Unit 1: Go slow and progressive
- Acclimatization can take up to 10-14 days
- Build a period of acclimation into the first 2 weeks of practice.
Unit 2: Allow for individual conditioning and medical status
- Factors contributing to higher risk for heat illness
- Body composition
- Athletes with Sickle Cell trait
Unit 3: Adjust intensity and rest
- Be aware of weather and humidity levels
Unit 4: Start sessions adequately hydrated
- Dehydration can impair athletic performance
- There isn’t a “one-size-fits-all” hydration approach
- Dehydration occurs when a person loses more fluid than he or she consumes
- Know the warning signs of dehydration
- Monitor urine color
- Weigh in/weigh out
- Know what your athletes drink
- Sports drinks
Unit 5: Recognize signs early
Unit 6: Recognize more serious signs
Unit 7: Have an Emergency Action Plan
Guidance for Hydrating Athletes during the COVID Pandemic
The concerns for transmission of COVID among sports team make the prospect of adequately hydrating athletes more difficult. Below are suggestions for ensuring adequate access to water and other sources of hydration for athletes during practice and competitions.
- Provide student athletes with prepackaged water bottles (pre-sealed) from a retail store.
- Student athlete must identify his or her bottle of water with a name or placed by his or her own property, not shared with another individual at any time and must be thrown away daily.
- Students can bring his or her own water bottle from home, which can be refilled by authorized personnel.
- Authorized personnel- is a coach or designated individual who would man the traditional cooler or ice water. Their role is to wear proper PPE (gloves and mask) to obtain the athlete’s personal water bottle refill that bottle and return it directly to that athlete.
- Coaches can provide hydration with the use of disposable cups for 1-time fill of water and quickly disposed of.
- Coaches may invest in or design their own gravity fed water devices that require no use of the athlete’s hands to be obtained. However, these water sources should be constantly running water and ideally flowing towards the ground. See image A:
- Under no circumstances should student athletes be allowed to obtain his or her own water by the use of watering stations that have nozzles or shared water bottles. If a staff can be extended to hydration duties, then the authorized personnel can provide direct hydration into the individual while wearing proper PPE (mask and gloves) as demonstrated in image B:
Due to Covid-19 Do NOT do the following as it can provide unnecessary exposure to the disease:
- Do not allow student athletes to have access to “team” water bottles.
- Do NOT allow student athletes to refill water bottles on their own
- Do NOT use water fountains. It is best to mark water fountains as restricted.
- Do not allow student athletes to have access to spray nozzles or other common sources of water.