Playing in extreme heat: How to keep athletes safe

Playing in extreme heat: How to keep athletes safe

NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC (AP/WECT) - High school student-athletes from across the region geared up Friday to play exhibition football games in 90-degree heat.

Physical activity in extreme heat can be dangerous, but add pads and helmets and it can feel even hotter.

Pamela Dixon, the athletic trainer for Laney High School, said New Hanover County trainers take extra precautions when athletes are active in this type of heat.

"The state of North Carolina with the North Carolina High School Association has policies in place, but we have even more specific policies in place for our region," Dixon said. "What we do is the wet bulb. That not only takes into account the temperature, but the temperature, the wind as well as the humidity."

The wet bulb is a small device used to determine when practice modifications are necessary due to heat.

"One zone means they have to have more water breaks, more cool down periods," Dixon said. "The next zone would be, take off their shoulder pads, take off their helmets. The next zone would be to suspend practice altogether."

Dixon said no practices in the area have had to be suspended this summer due in part because of practice time restrictions. Players are not allowed to practice after 10:30 a.m. and 6 p.m. in the first 10 days of practice, which is considered an acclimation period.

"We're really strict about this, especially in the first 10 days," Dixon said. "During that time, we're making sure they're drinking plenty of fluids. They know what to do during their recovery time as far as not drinking caffeine, eating the right foods. It's a whole round outlook on how to take care of themselves so they're not getting overheated, but they're also eating well and drinking water as well."

Emergency medical staff are on site at all games to help prevent heat-related incidents. Dixon said all New Hanover County athletic trainers have cold tubs in case of heat exhaustion or heat stroke.

Parents can also take measures to their athletes safe.

"Making sure that when they come they've eaten something. Making sure they're having water. Making sure they're not having the teas, they're not having the sodas before they come," Dixon said. "Making sure they're not wearing black. ... They're not, 'Oh, I'm going to wear long sleeves because leggings look cool.' Really trying to make sure they're allowing their bodies to be cooled down, what they wear, what they eat, what they drink."

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