New guidelines say young athletes safe to exercise in heat - News, Weather, Sports, Toledo, OH

New guidelines say young athletes safe to exercise in heat

TOLEDO, OH (WTOL) - Serious cases of heat-related illness among high school athletes have led doctors to revise guidelines meant to keep athletes healthy.

The American Academy of Pediatrics published its new recommendations in this week's edition of the journal Pediatrics.

For the first time, the statement's authors say children can safely tolerate exercise in heat as well as adults.

They're clear that heat illness is completely preventable as long as sports programs take precautions to protect young athletes.

 Precautions include:

  • Training athletic staff in risk reduction and making sure staff members monitor athletes
  • Educating children about preparing for heat
  • Allowing athletes to gradually adapt to physical activity in the heat
  • Offering time to drink fluids regularly
  • Adjusting participation based on individual risk factors.

"When kids have helmets on and full pads they lose so much water and don't have an opportunity to breathe as well," said Joe Palka, Whitmer High School's head football coach.

Whitmer, now holding 2-a-day practices, already follows many of the new recommendations.

Water breaks are common, athletes weigh themselves before and after practice to monitor water loss and coaches are trained to look for signs of heat illness.

"If we need to, we'll cut periods down, we'll practice without our helmets on, we'll take our pads off, we'll take extended water breaks every 5 minutes," Palka said. "We'll do what we need to do to beat the heat. It's all about safety and keeping kids healthy."

Two ProMedica sports medicine trainers are also on hand at all times to monitor athletes.

"Sometimes kids aren't as responsible as they need to be, and they might know they're feeling funny but not know what it is, so the trainers are huge," said Julie Wormley, whose son Christopher was sent home from Whitmer football practice with signs of dehydration.

The guidelines' authors also said it's important for young athletes to see a doctor before competing in sports and for schools to have an emergency action plan to deal with overheated athletes.

That way, the athletes can beat the heat and focus on beating the competition.

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