Sometimes I feel like there should be some kind of rule that football season can't start until the first cold front comes. As we are all too aware, the heat in Texas can be devastating. Not only is it almost unbearable for the coaches, but every year we have several heat related injuries with our athletes. These problems range from simple heat cramps to heat stroke. These injuries always result in lack of physical and mental performance on the field.
Age also plays a very important role in determining heat tolerance. Young children and older adults seem to have more problems when compared with adults. Children actually produce more heat when exercising as well and are less capable of producing sweat to cool their bodies.
Athletes that have higher percentages of body fat will have more problems with heat injury than athletes that are lean. Body fat deters heat loss so these athletes have more trouble cooling the body. So obviously, your offensive and defensive linemen should be watched a little more closely.
Protein is very necessary to for an athlete, but excesses will actually cause the body to produce slightly more heat due to extra heat produced through metabolism. So avoid eating too much protein before a game or practice. Caffeine and alcohol should also be avoided several hours before exercise. Caffeine and alcohol act as a diuretic, causing the body to lose water much quicker and it also raises the body's temperature. So coffee, tea, alcohol, and soft drinks should be avoided by athletes.
Heat acclimatization usually takes about two weeks. During this time it will be necessary to gradually get the body use to exercise in the heat. This will allow the body to gradually increase its ability to dissipate heat with less stress on the cardiovascular system.
In addition, new recommendations suggest that an athlete should also drink 5 to 12 ounces of cold water every 15 to 20 minutes during practice. Coaches should also encourage their athletes to drink plenty of water throughout the day. An athlete should never pass a water fountain without getting a drink, even if they are not thirsty. Thirst does not usually develop until about 1 to 2 percent of the body weight has dehydrated.
Athletes should also be required to weigh before and after practice. This will give both the coach and the athlete an idea of exactly water was actually lost during practice. For every pound that was lost, the athlete should consume one pint of water. This should adequately rehydrate the athlete and help to reduce the chances of dehydration the next practice. Because many athletes will not voluntarily drink enough water, it may even be necessary to not allow them to leave until weight losses are regained.
Normally, cool tap water is considered the best for optimal hydration and rehydration. However, athletes that exercise in the heat for more than an hour and a half will be better off drinking a sports drink. This drink should contain not only electrolytes, but it should have an ample supply of carbohydrates. Look for sports beverages that have 38 to 77 calories per 8 ounces and 4% to 8% carbohydrates. More that these amounts will slow the process of digestion and take too much time getting into the body. Many times it is a good idea to water down sports drinks. Not only will they go further and serve more athletes, but they will get into the athlete's system much quicker.
Since it is highly unlikely that we will ever see football start
in the year when it is cooler for us in Texas, coaches must just learn
how to deal with the heat. By teaching our athletes simple techniques
proper hydration, these heat related injuries can be avoided or reduced
greatly. Give your athletes water breaks ever 15 to 20 minutes and
to recognize the symptoms of heat related injuries. The time invested
proper hydration on and off the field will result in optimal physical
mental performance during games and practice.
All material on these pages is subject to and
Do not copy or use in any manner under penalty of law.