Welcome to Stay in the Game, a monthly blog where the team from the Queen's Center for Sports Medicine shares the latest tips on the treatment and prevention of sports injuries. We want to help you play hard and be well - a winning combination that will keep you in the game all season long.

Seven common causes of heat injury


Fall sports are in full swing as schools are back in session. Although we often associate the fall season with cooler temperatures, our warm Hawaii weather occurs year-round and proper precautions should be taken to prevent heat-related illnesses – a leading cause of death and disability among U.S. high school athletes according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Prevention begins with understanding the causes of heat illness.

Common Causes

During regular exercise, 70-90% of the energy our bodies produce is released by heat. Our bodies cool off by sweating and we lose necessary body fluids. If we do not replace these fluids, we become dehydrated, which makes it difficult to sweat and cool down and can result in heat injury.

Many factors can hinder heat release and perspiration, including:

1. Environment

Air temperature, combined with humidity, wind speed, and sun affect how our bodies cool off. High humidity (greater than 60%) makes sweat evaporation very difficult.

Tip: Be mindful of the day's weather conditions.

2. Clothing

Dark clothing absorbs heat. Full body clothing, heavy pads and helmets make cooling more difficult and dramatically increase the chance of heat stress.

Tip: If possible, consider light-colored and lightweight clothing.

3. Sun exposure

Direct exposure to the sun with no available shade can increase core body temperature.

Tip: Take intermittent breaks under the shade to cool down.

4. Fitness level and ability

Athletes with higher rates of body fat have greater difficulty cooling themselves.

Tip: Give yourself time to adjust to warmer temperatures. Ramp up your activity slowly. Be aware of your activity levels and ability.

5. Age

Children adjust to heat more slowly than adults and therefore, regulate their body heat at a slower rate.

Tip: Keep an eye on your child's performance during practice or play to make sure they are not over-exerting themselves.

6. Dehydration

Even mild levels of dehydration can hurt athletic performance. If you have not had enough fluid intake, your body will not be able to effectively cool itself through sweat and evaporation.

Tip: Remember to hydrate before play and continue to hydrate during and after activity.

7. Health conditions and medications

Anyone with a current or recent fever, those with sickle cell trait or disease, or those taking any medications that are diuretics or stimulants may be at increased risk for heat injury. This is especially true if good hydration and electrolytes are not maintained.

Tip: Take a break from rigorous activity or training until you are back to your normal physical capacity and avoid suffering from a heat injury.

Remember these causes of heat illness and be sure to stay cool and hydrated during hot weather. Allow frequent periods of rest and take the time to rehydrate, whether you feel thirsty or not, to avoid injury from a heat-related illness.

Queen's Center for Sports Medicine provides comprehensive care for the treatment and prevention of sports injuries and heat-related conditions for patients of all ages. Call 808-691-4449 to schedule an appointment, or click the button below.

Reprinted from the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons (AAOS)


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