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Athletic Trainers' Association Releases New Heat-Illness Guidelines

In a new position statement, the National Athletic Trainers' Association calls for student-athletes to go through a seven- to 14-day heat-acclimatization period during the preseason to reduce the risk of serious heat illnesses.

At its 65th annual convention on Friday in Indianapolis, the athletic trainers' association released an executive summary of updated heat-illness guidelines, which will be published in the Journal of Athletic Training.

They recommend scheduling the preseason heat-acclimatization period as follows:

  • During the first two days, student-athletes should go through either one three-hour practice or one two-hour practice and a one-hour field session, wearing only helmets.

  • During the third and fourth day, student-athletes should go through either one three-hour practice or one two-hour practice and a one-hour field session, wearing only helmets and shoulder pads.

  • On the fifth day, student-athletes should go through either one three-hour practice or one two-hour practice and a one-hour field session, wearing full athletic equipment.

  • From that point forward, student-athletes should wear full athletic equipment when practicing. (Note that while the language in these recommendations seems to specifically refer to football players, the guidelines apply to all student-athletes.)

The athletic trainers' association also calls for a cold-water immersion tub and ice towels to be available "when environmental conditions warrant," as these are some of the best tools to treat a student-athlete with a suspected heat illness. Student-athletes with "profound central nervous dysfunction" and a core body temperature above 105 degrees Fahrenheit could be suffering from exertional heat stroke, and the goal with said student-athletes is to lower their body temperature to 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit within 30 minutes of their collapse.

For student-athletes suspected of exertional heat stroke, the association recommends cooling them via a cold-water immersion tub first before transporting them to a hospital. They also push for this policy to be defined in each school's emergency-action plan.

Back in the summer of 2012, the National Federation of State High School Associations released a free online course for coaches about heat acclimatization and illnesses. The federation claimed that exertional heat stroke was the leading cause of preventable death in high school athletics.

"Many times, deaths from heat strokes are preventable, and we believe this course can be just the tool that players, coaches, and parents need to guard against serious illness or death," said Tim Flannery, the association's director of coach education, in a statement at the time.World-Cup-soccer-USA-Jermaine-Jones-280 .jpg

In 2011, the American Academy of Pediatrics released its own set of recommendations regarding student-athlete heat illnesses, which included a mandatory 14-day graduated return to physical activity, similar to that which the athletic trainers' association proposes. The academy also pushed for ample water access for student-athletes, changing the intensity and duration of physical activity in extreme heat, and requiring that schools provide at least two hours of rest between same-day physical activities in warm or hot weather.

Look no further than the U.S. Men's National Team—which made history during its soccer match with Portugal on Sunday by taking the World Cup's first-ever water break in muggy Manaus, Brazil—as an example of when common sense should reign supreme during sweltering conditions.

Now, if only proper hydration meant turning into Clint Dempsey...

Photo: United States' Jermaine Jones drinks water after scoring his side's first goal during the group G World Cup soccer match between the USA and Portugal on June 22 in Manaus, Brazil. (Themba Hadebe/AP)

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