Source: Lake Geneva Regional News

Extreme heat a serious threat to athletes

by Mike Ramczyk

July 12, 2012

It was ridiculously hot out last week. Even baseball games were cancelled, and that doesnít happen very often.

With temperatures hovering around and even surpassing 100 degrees numerous times last week, several parents requested and were granted the cancellation of Thursdayís senior legion tilt between Genoa City and Westosha, originally scheduled for 7 p.m. at Krisik Park in Genoa City.

Genoa City assistant coach Curt Andresen agreed with the cancellation, and he said last weekendís senior legion tournament in Mundelein, Ill., was pushed back from a Friday through Sunday schedule to only Saturday and Sunday because of the heat wave.

Genoa City has been playing solid ball, and the squad definitely has its sights on a deep postseason run.

But if anything is going to slow these guys down, itís extreme heat.

A lot of athletes want to be tough and ďstick it out,Ē but extreme heat is no joke, and athletes should stay away from it.

At 103 degrees Thursday, it was the highest temperature on record in the Milwaukee area since 1995.

With extreme drought causing burning bans and even fireworks show cancellations in the area, taking a baseball game or two off is the smart thing to do.

According to the Sport Journal, heat rash and heat cramps are mild versions of heat illness while heat exhaustion and heat stroke are much more serious and can lead to death.

If an athlete is suffering from heat stroke, it is essential to provide immediate treatment. Athletes generally suffer a slightly different type of heat stroke called exertional heat stroke. In exertional heat stroke, victims continue to sweat, despite the increased core temperature. A stroke occurs with a core temperature above 105 degrees and confusion, disorientation and clumsiness. You may collapse and go into a coma if symptoms are ignored.

Hydration, or drinking a ton of water, is one of the most important factors in preventing heat illness.

The combination of water and sports drinks seems to offer the best hydration. The sports drinks replenish sodium and other electrolytes that water does not have. However, only drinking sports drinks can provide too much salt and drinking water becomes necessary.

Here are some tips for preventing heat-related illness, according to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):

Replace lost electrolytes

When sweating, the body loses salt and minerals. Itís important to maintain sodium and electrolyte levels if you are sweating profusely and exercising more than 90 minutes. The easiest way to replace these is with salty foods or sports drinks.

Wear appropriate clothing

Choose lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing. In the hot sun, a hat and sunscreen are helpful. Wear light, loose-wicking clothing so sweat can evaporate. Invest in clothes made with CoolMax, Smartwool or polypropylene.

Use sunscreen and avoid sunburn

Sunburn decreases your ability to cool yourself and causes fluid loss. Make sure to use sunblock with SPF 15 or higher. Sport a hat that offers shade and allows ventilation.

Acclimate to the heat

You will have a greater tolerance for exercising in extreme heat if you get used to it over one to two weeks. Exercise or play sports around sunrise or sunset, not in the middle of the day.

Use common sense

Avoid hot foods, alcohol and heavy foods that increase your body temperature. If you experience headaches, fatigue, irritability or decreased exercise or sports performance, stop and cool off.

Braving the elements

Perhaps I should have taken my own advice. On Friday night, despite temperatures in the 90s and humidity that turned T-shirts into wet suits, I played softball in the YMCA menís league for the first time this season.

And I didnít just give it a college try. I played three consecutive hour-long games back-to-back like an idiot. I guess I threw all that stuff about rest and danger out the window.

After three games, boy did I pay for it. I experienced cramping all over my body, decreased sports performance, shortness of breath and straight-up exhaustion.

Maybe it was an experiment. Maybe I wanted to see first-hand what these athletes go through every time they do what they love in extreme heat.

Whatever the case, I survived. I stayed hydrated as much as possible, ducking to the water fountain for a drink every chance I could. Also, I braved the elements in the evening and night, when the sun is not at its strongest.

Games went on as scheduled, and guys really stuck it out. However, I took it to the extreme with three consecutive games. Not a great example of common sense or taking it easy, but chalk it up to first-hand experience. I love the game, and now I see the price athletes pay each and every day.

Stay cool and heed some of this advice the rest of the summer. If itís too much, just stop. Live to play another day.