When summer ends and school gets back in session, lots of kids go back to playing sports after school. But with earlier start dates and longer summers, heat safety remains an important aspect of keeping kids protected and comfortable while participating in back-to-school sports training.
Heat illness has varying degrees of seriousness, with exertional heatstroke being the most serious. Those athletic injuries are preventable with the right guidelines and an appropriate plan in case of an emergency. It’s important to ensure that kids are being safely and securely cared for to avoid heat stress, whether you’re a parent, a coach, or a kid who is participating.
Schedule for Cooler Times
Avoid planning workouts or practice during the warmest parts of the day. For most school sports, this is easy as the kids are in school all day, so practices can be held early morning before their first class or in the afternoon after they get out of school.
The intensity of workouts during hot seasons should be gradually increased so players can get used to it. Most heat injuries happen when it’s a jolt to the system and athletes aren’t used to the higher temperatures. This can be easily avoided with the right amount of preparation and planning. Plan for this gradual acclimatizing over a period of one to two weeks.
Take Frequent Breaks
This is somewhat of a no-brainer. The hotter it is outside, the more frequent breaks athletes will need to take. Provide water and shade for players to cool off and get hydrated at least every 20 minutes. This will help stave off the possible harms of heat exhaustion.
Use Equipment Lightly
One of the ways that you can avoid the stresses of high temperatures is to reduce the layers of equipment that athletes are wearing. Try to limit the equipment to helmets and then gradually add in heavier equipment over time, as the temperatures cool down. Like the intensity of the workouts, the key is to slowly increase over time to avoid shocks to the system.
For anyone exercising in high temperatures, it’s always important to dress in lightweight cotton or jersey materials. Encourage them to wear tees and shorts to keep cool.
Know What To Do
Everyone should become familiar with the risks and signs of heat exhaustion and heat stroke and especially what to do if it happens. The first step is to try to rapidly cool off anyone who seems to be suffering from heat illness. Move them to a cooler place and try to lower their temperature using cold water or a cooling towel. If the heat stroke appears to be life-threatening, treat it as a medical emergency and get them immediate medical attention.
After-school sports are supposed to be fun. That’s why it’s important to focus on the safety and let the kids and athletes focus on enjoying themselves.