Advertisement

Editorial: Athletes, everyone should be aware of symptoms of heat-related illnesses

On Monday, the website of the charitable foundation of a University of Maryland football offensive lineman indicated that the player died of a heatstroke during an offseason team workout in May, highlighting the dangers to young athletes.

Jordan McNair, 19, who played high school football at McDonogh in Baltimore County, was hospitalized May 29 after an afternoon workout in College Park and died June 13, according to The Baltimore Sun report. While the university did not disclose his cause of death, the description on the Jordan McNair Foundation’s website listed his cause of death as heatstroke.

Advertisement

Heatstroke is a condition caused by the body overheating, usually as a result of physical exertion in or prolonged exposure to high temperatures, according to the Mayo Clinic. It is the most serious form of heat injury and, naturally, is most common in the summer months.

And it’s not all about the temperature. A summer day with temperatures in the mid-80s can seem downright oppressive when factoring in humidity, making it feel like it’s more than 100 degrees outside. This is because the moisture in the air reduces the body’s ability to get rid of excess heat through sweating.

There were five heat-related deaths in Maryland in 2017, from May to September, when the Department of Health collects such data. In 2016, there were 17 such deaths in the state.

Competitive athletes may be particularly susceptible to heatstroke and heat-related illnesses. We’re roughly a month away from high school sports practices officially resuming, but with summer rec sports in full swing, it’s a good time for coaches and parents to remind young athletes to stay hydrated when playing or practicing. And while it can be good to push your limits, athletes and parents should recognize when symptoms of heat-related illness like heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heatstroke are present.

Disorientation, dizziness, weakness, unusual behavior, headache and vomiting are all potential signs of heat-related illness.

In sports like football that require wearing additional equipment, it is even more paramount that parents and coaches pay attention. Studies have shown that the risk of developing a heat-related illness is 11.4 times higher in football than all other sports combined, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine.

In addition to staying hydrated – not just during games and practices, but before and after as well — doctors recommend taking time to get used to the heat before strenuous activity. High school students planning to play a sport during the fall season should start exercising outside now, and gradually increasing the amount of time outside so that their body is acclimated when August practices roll around.

But you don’t need to be a young person or an athlete to be susceptible to heat stroke or other heat-related illnesses.

It seems like common sense, but everyone should be mindful of the dangers of the hot sun and humidity when spending time outside gardening, mowing the grass, exercising, working or any number of other activities. Wear light-colored, light-weight clothing and take breaks inside or in the shade when you can. Stay cool and be safe.

Advertisement
Advertisement