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Warm weather risks for student athletes

April 25, 2016

Protecting against heat-related illnesses

Mike Hughes

Head of Participant Accident Business Development

Mike Hughes is Head of Participant Accident Business Development for Zurich’s Accident and Health... About this expert

kids playing soccer

As the days get longer and warmer in many parts of the U.S., athletic fields everywhere fill with baseball or soccer equipment and the sound of young athletes. While spring and summer student sports participation is welcome after a long, cold winter, school administrators, coaches and parents need to make sure that students are prepared for the heat and potential heat-related illnesses.

Of course, it is best to avoid heat related illnesses. Anyone involved with a student athletic program, or the parent of a student athlete, needs to be able to identify signs of heat illness and respond appropriately to this potentially deadly condition.

Exertional heat stroke is a leading cause of death in sport with an estimated 20 deaths from 2010 to 2014. School programs should have an emergency action plan in place with personnel trained to respond to the situation. U.S. high school athletes suffer an estimated 9,237 time-loss heat illnesses every year that are serious enough to keep them out of sports for one or more days, according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Key symptoms of heat stroke include:

  • Red, hot, dry skin
  • Dizziness, throbbing headache, confusion
  • Nausea
  • Rapid pulse
  • Very high body temperature

While less serious than heat stroke, heat exhaustion is a dangerous condition that should not be ignored. Students may be suffering from this condition if they have: 1) clammy, moist skin, 2) pale or flushed complexion, 3) dizziness, headache or confusion, and 4) fast, shallow breathing.

To help prevent the effects of heat and limit risk of heat-related illness, a pre-season/pre-game training regime should include acclimatizing to the heat, incorporating body cooling measures and ensuring adequate hydration when participating in warm weather sports activities.

In spite of warm weather conditioning and emergency preparedness plans, athletes can still become victims of severe heat-related illnesses. Guidelines for identification and treatment can be found on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Should a student require medical treatment, the subsequent financial costs can prove to be a significant burden with medical expenses running into the tens of thousands of dollars for a family, particularly with today’s higher deductible health plans.

Student Accident insurance coverage offers a way for school districts to assist parents dealing with a financial burden stemming from a variety of injuries suffered while students are participating in school-sponsored activities.