Exertional heat stroke (EHS) is a heat illness that results from either exposure to very high environmental temperature or intense exercise. Although it may not be categorized as the top causes of fatalities among athletes, it is one of the causes of sudden death. I choose to discuss it because of its capacity to cause sudden death. Besides, athletic trainers seem to ignore it, despite its link with several deaths.
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Physical injuries that are likely to lead to death such as concussions have been prioritized, with necessary measures being taken to prevent them. Nevertheless, awareness about EHS is not well spread. Scores of athletes have collapsed on the field during practice or matches, particularly in hot and humid weather or when dressed in heavy training gear. EHS is fatal. Therefore, it should be studied in depth, from its causes, symptoms, prevention, and treatment. This would in turn reduce sudden death in sports such as football as noted by Casa et al. (104).
The main issues/causes of sudden death within this particular condition
Heat stroke kills within a very short time. When one collapses, it is advisable for the clinician to immerse him or her in ice-cold water. The earlier the immersion takes place, the higher the chances of survival. When immersion is not an option, the patient should be wrapped in cold towels on as much body surface as possible. This plan helps in lessening the body temperature to about 38.9 degrees.
EHS patients may die out of an array of causes. Generally though, deaths result from the shutting down or destruction of vital body organs. When the thermoregulatory system is overwhelmed, there is accumulation of unnecessary heat in the body. The heat leads to the malfunctioning of the Central Nervous System, which is manifested in the symptoms of EHS. If the reduction of body temperature is not done immediately after collapsing, it is less likely for patients to survive, even when they make it to hospital. A delay in the reduction of body temperature increases the severity of damage in the body organs (Casa et al. 104).
What to look out for as an athletic trainer
According to the National Athletic Trainers’ Association, it is vital for an athletic trainer to recognize the symptoms of EHS (par.1). Some of the indications to watch out for among athletes include diarrhea, muscle cramps, altered consciousness, headache, dizziness, biliousness, confusion,emotional instability, collapse, profuse sweating, weakness, dehydration, irritability, irrational behavior, and rectal temperature above 40 degrees. These symptoms are most likely to occur if it is hot and humid, if the athlete is in poor physical shape, or if the athlete’s is in training equipment for first day. When the symptoms are recognized, the athlete should remove all excess clothing and be immersed in ice water for about 30 minutes.
If such facilities are not available, the athlete should move to a shade, take a cold shower, and cover maximum body area with cold wet towels. Proper breathing and air circulation should be maintained, and emergency services called immediately. Athletic trainers should be well educated on EHS. Therefore, they need to ensure that their practice areas have cooling facilities and water supply in line with EHS policies. They should also program their workout hours to ensure minimum temperature. Trainers have the obligation to ensure that athletes are fully aware of the risks of EHS. Therefore, they should follow all safety guidelines. Heat stroke can be prevented through proper hydration, dressing in light-fitting clothing, practicing in the shade and minimizing warm up time, eating a balanced diet, and getting sufficient sleep. Another means of prevention it is increasing workout time through a slow progress for the athletes.
Casa, Douglas, Kevin Guskiewicz, Scott Anderson, Ronald Courson, Jonathan Heck, Carolyn Jimenez, Brendon McDermott, and Michael Miller. “National Athletic Trainers’ Association Position Statement: Preventing Sudden in Sports.” Journal of Athletic Training 47.1(2012): 96-118. Print.
National Athletic Trainers’ Association. Preventing Sudden Death in Sports: Brief summary of NATA’s Position Statement: Preventing Sudden Death in Sports, 2013. Web.