As Football "Two-a-Days" Heat Up NATA Unveils Key Points of Heat Illness Position Statement

DALLAS (July 30, 2002) – As high school and college football players begin battling each other for limited spots on the team during two-a-day practice sessions this summer, they’ll also be combating a more subtle, but extremely dangerous foe – the heat. The National Athletic Trainers' Association (NATA) has released key recommendations and prevention tips from its heat illness position statement scheduled for release this fall. NATA's research indicates that the subtle signs and symptoms associated with exertional heat illness (heat cramp, heat exhaustion, heat stroke) are often overlooked, resulting in more serious problems for affected athletes. According to Douglas J. Casa, PhD, ATC, heat illness expert and contributing author of NATA’s soon-to-be-released Heat Illness Position Statement (in the Journal of Athletic Training), the recommendations presented "provide certified athletic trainers (ATC) and allied health care providers with an integrated scientific and practical approach to the prevention, recognition and treatment of heat illness." Casa, who is director of Athletic Training Education at the University of Connecticut, outlines the following strategies for preventing and treating exertional heat illness to assist ATCs and other first-responder health providers, as well as coaches and athletic directors to maximize health, safety and sport performance as they relate to these illnesses. Prevention steps include:

  • Ensure that appropriate medical coverage is available and that medical personnel are familiar with exertional heat illness prevention, recognition and management
  • Conduct a thorough, physician-supervised medical screening before athletic training begins
  • Adapt athletes to exercise in the heat gradually over 10 to 14 days
  • Educate athletes and coaches regarding heat illness and hydration, and encourage athletes to sleep at least six to eight hours a night in a cool environment
  • Develop event and practice guidelines and education materials for hot, humid weather, and check environmental conditions before and during the activity; modify activity under high-risk condition and plan rest/hydration breaks to match the environmental conditions and activity intensity
  • Allow two- to three-hour rest periods at mealtimes and provide adequate supply of proper fluids to maintain hydration
  • Weigh high-risk athletes before and after practice to estimate amount of lost body water; ensure a return to pre-practice weight
  • Minimize the amount of equipment and clothing worn by the athlete in hot or humid conditions and minimize warm-up time when feasible
  • Allow athletes to practice, or at least rest, in shaded areas
  • Include the recommended and proper supplies on the field, in the locker room and at other stations
  • Notify local hospital and emergency personnel before mass participation events to inform them of the event and the increased possibility of heat-related illness
  • "Those who begin training in the late summer, particularly football, soccer and cross-country athletes, experience exertional heat illness more often than athletes who begin training during the winter and spring," added Casa. "We feel that having professional recommendations as they relate to heat illness is extremely crucial," said Julie Max, MEd, ATC, NATA president. "The NATA has long-awaited the completion of this statement and we're pleased to attach our name to the front end of it, knowing we are completely confident in the material presented. Our hope is that it will boost awareness in how heat illness injuries can be prevented and treated now and into the future." Athletic training is recognized by the American Medical Association as an allied healthcare profession. Based in Dallas, the NATA is the voice for 23,000 certified athletic trainers across the country. Its mission is to enhance the quality of health care for athletes and those engaged in physical activity, and to advance the profession of athletic training through education and research in the prevention, evaluation, management and rehabilitation of injuries.

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