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14-08-2011 | Article

Sport-related exertional heat illness ‘is preventable’


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MedWire News: Exertional heat illness in youth during sports and other physical activities is usually preventable, according to a joint policy statement from the Council on Sports Medicine and Fitness and the Council on School Health.

"With appropriate preparation, modifications, and monitoring, most healthy children and adolescents can safely participate in outdoor sports and other physical activities through a wide range of challenging warm to hot climatic conditions," remark the authors of the statement.

They explain that the risk for exertional heat illness, including heat exhaustion and heat stroke, is highest when children and adolescents are vigorously active outdoors in hot and humid conditions.

Severe exertional heat injury or heat stroke is significantly associated with morbidity and mortality, they add, especially if diagnosis is delayed and appropriate medical management is not initiated promptly.

In the statement, published in the journal Pediatrics, lead study author Michael Bergeron (American Academy of Pediatrics, Elk Grove Village, Illinois, USA) and colleagues identify several key heat illness risk factors, and provide recommendations for reducing the physiologic strain associated with these factors, as well as for improving safety and activity tolerance in young people.

"Besides poor hydration status, the primary determinants of reduced performance and exertional heat-illness risk in youth during sports… include undue physical exertions, insufficient recovery between repeated exercise bouts or closely scheduled same-day training sessions or rounds of sports competition, and inappropriately wearing clothing, uniforms, and protective equipment that play a role in excessive heat retention," say Bergeron et al.

"Because these known contributing risk factors are modifiable, exertional heat illness is usually preventable," they add.

The researchers recommend that parents, teachers, coaches, athletic trainers, and pediatricians, as well as youth sports governing bodies and administrators should always emphasize and use suitable prevention strategies.

They say this will likely improve safety, and minimize the risk of exertional heat illness for all children and adolescents during exercise, sports participation, and other physical activities in warm to hot weather.

Of note, "some participants might not require the same heightened concern as other young athletes who might need implementation of additional exertional heat-illness prevention measures and closer monitoring in the same or a less challenging environment," the committee concludes.

By Nikki Withers