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Record Heat Poses Deadly Risk for Young Athletes

The record heat this summer has been deadly for young athletes. At least two high school football players and a coach have died from heat-related illnesses. In addition, four high school players in Arkansas were hospitalized for dehydration as temperatures hit a record-high 114 degrees earlier this month.

In light of these developments, the American Academy of Pediatrics has revised its guidelines on heat and school athletes. Authors of the statement believe heat-related illness can be prevented if school officials and adults are informed about the risks of training and competing in high temperatures, CNN reports.

“Athletic directors, coaches, teachers and other adults who are overseeing children exercising in the heat should make themselves aware of ways to reduce the risk of heat illness, and they should develop an emergency action plan,” said Dr. Cynthia Devore, co-author of the statement and chairperson of the AAP Council on School Health. “This is especially important as we head into high school preseason football.”

The authors suggest that a trainer be available on site to monitor athletes who might show signs of heat illness. The revised guidelines do not give precise rules about whether games or practices should be canceled if temperatures reach a certain level. But they do suggest it. The statement also highlights the need for coaches to provide adequate rest, at least two hours between major events, during practices and game day.

“Most healthy children and athletes can safely participate in outdoor sports and activities in a wide range of warm to hot weather, but adults sometimes create situations that are potentially dangerous,” said Dr. Stephen G. Rice, co-author of the policy statement and a former member of the executive committee of the AAP Council on Sports Medicine and Fitness.

In the statement, the authors stress the need for education regarding heat illness prevention, including the importance of staying hydrated and adjusting gradually to the heat. The statement noted that coaches and trainers should assess each child’s status individually because each child handles heat differently.