Stadium Lights, Friday Nights, and Heatstroke?

Most athletes have complaints about the horror that is summer practice. Countless hours spent running drill after drill in the swealtering Arkansas heat will make anyone cranky, yet year after year, students return to the fields to play the sports that they love. Here at Hendrix, coaches and players alike strive to keep their student athletes safe during practice. However, when temperatures climb, so do incidents of heat-related illness.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention lists five heat-related conditions: heat rash, sunburn, heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heatstroke. Most of these conditions are common for members of sports teams, and prevention is mostly done on a person to person basis. “Coaches are supposed to offer water during practice, [but] they don’t really do,” a freshman member of the cross country team said.

Personal prevention is a big deal, but there are many factors preventing players from taking proper care of themselves. “You just do it,” Another freshman athlete said. “If you complain, you get placed lower on the team. [Eventually] you grow numb to it.”

The implication that needing water is a form of weakness is rampant on sports teams as well. Many athletes can attest to team pressure against leaving to get water. Summer sports are the most affected by rising temperatures, but living in Arkansas means dealing with variable weather.

Many players want coaches to listen to the heat regulations more. A freshman on the girls’ lacrosse team describes practices in the fall as extremely warm, and sports like lacrosse have regulations in certain states that practices are not supposed to be held on days when it’s over 100 degrees and the UV index is high. The UV index is a way of forecasting the expected amount of exposure to UV rays from the sun. This is an important forecast because overexposure to UV rays can cause multiple kinds of skin cancer like melanoma. Overexposure can also cause immune suppression and various eye disorders.

The issue is that the average person doesn’t do enough to protect themselves from the sun on regular days, and athletes are overexposed on a near-daily basis. So what can athletes do? The obvious answer is drinking lots of water. As a general rule, everyone should drink about 67% of their body weight in water a day. More physically active individuals require more water than that depending on their level of activity.

Other precautions like wearing sunscreen and protective clothing help as well. Multiple sportswear companies have combated high temperatures by specifically tailoring their products to be UV resistant, and many sports teams have integrated them into their uniforms. Big names like UnderArmour and Nike have wildly popular dri-fit lines that wick away sweat and continuously stabilize body temperature, but clothing can only do so much. It is up to athletes and coaches alike to create a safe, heat illness-free environment.

PHOTO: Jakob Owens on Unsplash

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