Heat Illness a Concern for Student-Athletes in August, Especially Among Football Players in North Carolina

Student-athletes returning to school for football or other fall sports practices should take warning that heat illness is a concern that should not be taken lightly. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), heat illness is the leading cause of death and disability for athletes in high school while practicing or competing in an event. When body temperature reaches 105 degrees, a person can become at risk of permanent organ damage.

Personal injury attorneys in Charlotte know that athletes can’t always detect when they are on the brink of danger so it is the responsibility of the coach to keep a close eye on them and not push them too far. Winning isn’t everything, especially when it can cost an athlete their life or cause a disabling injury that can last a lifetime.
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In a recent study, CDC found there were 118 reported incidents in 100 sample schools from 2005-2009, which required lost time from practice as a result of an athlete suffering from a heat-related illness. Results of the study indicated football players were most at risk of missing time from practice and reported a rate of ten times more than the average rate of the other 8 sports studied. August was the worst reported month for time-lost heat illness in over 66 percent of cases.

Heat-related illness in Asheville, Statesville and elsewhere in North Carolina is a concern because it has been a brutal summer with heightened temperatures resulting in several tragedies already being reported in the United States.

Max Preps reports there have been four players and a coach die in a 7-day span, all believed to be heat-related pending the autopsy results. Three of the five deaths have already ruled heat exposure as a contributing factor, and if it turns out they are all related to heat-illness, it would be the most deaths in high school football since 2006.

From 1995 through 2009, the National Center for Catastrophic Sport Injury Research from the University of North Carolina reported a total of 30 fatalities as a result of football players not recovering from a heat-related illness. On average, it was two deaths per year with the only exceptions being in 2002 and 2003 when no deaths were reported.
Eastside Medical Center offers the following tips to athletes, parents, trainers and coaches:

-Look for symptoms like dizziness, nausea, headache, weakness, or confusion.

-Staying hydrated is the best defense. The more an athlete sweats, the more they need to drink to keep the nutrients replenished.

-On average, an athlete needs to drink 2 to 4 16-ounce glasses per hour to make up for the 1-2 liters of hydration lost through perspiration.

-Weigh an athlete before and after practice to determine how much water is needed to replenish fluids.

-For meals eaten before practice or competition, put two shakes of a salt shaker on your food to replace sodium chloride lost through sweating.

-Coaches should ease athletes into lengthy practices or over-strenuous activity for the first two weeks.

-Plan practices early in the day or late at night to get athletes out of extreme conditions and lengthened heat exposure.

-Always have medical staff or a trainer on hand. Athletes should report to the coaches and trainer any heat illness-related symptoms they are feeling.

For more information about summer heat emergency data or athlete tips to prevent heat exhaustion or heat stroke, visit North Carolina Division of Public Health.

The Lee Law Offices, P.A. help protect victims and their families who are injured or have suffered from a heat-related illness in North or South Carolina. Call 1-800-887-1965 for a free no-obligation appointment to discuss your case in length.

Additional Resources:
Heat brings tragedy to Southern high school football, by Todd Holcomb, Max Preps.

Playground Injuries Common in School-Related Accidents in Asheville, Hickory, North Carolina Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, August 21, 2011.

New Phone App Can Help Prevent Work-Related Heat Illness at Asheville Job Sites and Elsewhere, North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Lawyers Blog, August 22, 2011.

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