Avera Medical Minute AMcK: As athletes prepare for fall sports, hydration is key

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As the beginning of the school year gets closer, athletes are starting to take the field for camps to get them ready for the upcoming sports seasons.

Many of them may not be used to exercising in this extreme heat.

“When it’s hot, I’m not going to risk it. I mean, we’re playing a game. I’m not going to put a kid in a situation where they can be hurt,” said Chad Stadem, Washington High School head football coach.

“We’re constantly pushing breaks on the kids. We’re giving them water whenever we can,” said Coach Stadem.

Coach Stadem says when it comes to the heat, it’s not game. He and the school’s Avera athletic trainers work together to make sure players are drinking enough fluids and staying safe in the heat.

“Our Avera trainers and strength coaches are wonderful here at Washington. They have good relationships with our kids. They really go out and try to know the kids, and they can kind of see if their mood changes and things like that,” said Coach Stadem.

“For really bad heat exhaustion, there’s going to be a lack of sweating. So if an athletes come in and they should be sweating and aren’t, that is a very serious sign and one of my big red flags,” said Caitlyn Martin, Washington High School Avera athletic trainer.

“I think any athlete has the tendency to want to push themselves,” said Dr. Sam Schimelpfenig, pediatrician, sports medicine physician and Avera Sports Institute Medical Director.

Dr. Schimelpfenig says as soon as athletes start working, they’re losing fluids – so hydrating before practice and throughout the day is very important.

“You can really look at urine output. And if you’re going pee every two to three hours, your urine is a clear color. That’s a good sign that you’re hydrated. The longer you go between having urine and the darker the urine looks, that’s just all signs of you need to drink more fluids,” said Dr. Schimelpfenig.

He says it’s important for athletes to recognize the signs of dehydration.
“Heat rash will sometimes show up where you get little itchy red spots underneath your clothes, but usually what will start to happen next with dehydration is that energy level goes down. They seem to be functioning a little slower, they’re not as fast, reaction times aren’t as good and they just progress the more dehydrated you get. Eventually you’ll end up with heat illness. If it continues to progress without being recognized, then it turns into heat stroke and they definitely will have some mental status changes or they’re even unconscious,” said Dr. Schimelpfenig.

Coach Stadem says he never wants his players to feel pressured to keep playing if they’re not feeling well. It’s also up to the athlete to communicate to their coach or athletic trainer.

“In our culture here, we try to tell the kids that we have another guy behind you -- it’s his turn to go in and do his job and if you have to sit out because you got a cramp or whatever it may be, you got your buddy. We work with each other all day long and so it’s your other partner’s time to get in there and give you a spot of rest. But yeah, they need to tell us if their body is cramping up; they need to talk to us,” said Coach Stadem.

To get acclimated to practicing in the heat, Dr. Schimelpfenig says to get outside, do some light jogging and get your body used to the heat and humidity.

For more information just call 877-AT-AVERA.