Heat-Related Illnesses in Sport

Heat-Related Illnesses in Sport

Let me state the obvious:  It is HOT outside!  REALLY HOT!

This week I’ve been providing medical coverage for a local youth soccer camp.  While I do not anticipate (and certainly do not wish to see) any significant injuries, my biggest concern has been the development of a heat-related illness in an athlete.

The prevention, recognition and treatment of exertional heat illnesses are major focuses of the on-field sports medicine team at all levels of sport.  This week, and through the entirety of what always seems as the never-ending summer in Alabama, the risk of an exertional heat illness is ever present.  

So how do you recognize a heat-related illness?

Common symptoms may include….






-Muscle cramps




-Cold, pale, clammy skin (heat exhaustion)

-Hot, red, dry skin (heat stroke)

-Quick pulse

What should be done if heat-related illness is suspected?

In most situations, removing the athlete from play, resting in a cool location, and slowly replenishing fluids is sufficient.  However, if more severe symptoms are present, if symptoms worsen, or if symptoms last for longer than one hour, immediate medical attention is required.

For further clarification on recognizing signs/symptoms and the recommended response, see the CDC’s guidelines here.

In best minimizing heat-related illnesses, proper hydration is a key component.

A few easy ways to determine an athlete’s hydration status are to (1) check the color of urine, (2) pay attention to thirst sensation, and (3) measure body mass both pre- and post-exercise.  Each of these items can help determine hydration needs both prior to and following activity or competition.

The National Athletic Trainers’ Association (NATA) has published several position statements related to both fluid replacement (see here) and exertional heat illnesses (see here) which I would encourage you to read for further information.

In the meantime, stay cool, and should you have any additional questions about how we can best help you, visit UncommonPT.com.

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