Summer basketball (training camps, tournaments, travelling) can place additional demands on athletes. Heat illnesses are progressive and primarily caused by over-exposure to intense heat or over-exertion:

  • Heat Stroke (core body temperature over 40°C with central nervous system complications)
  • Heat Exhaustion (water or salt depletion)
  • Heat Syncope (fainting because of reduced blood flow)
  • Heat Edema (swelling of hands, feet and ankles)
  • Heat Rash (blocked pores trap perspiration under skin leading to blisters or red lumps)
  • Heat Cramps (Exercise Associated Muscle Cramps)

These illnesses can leave to long-term health complications. Coaches have an obligation – especially in the summer months – to prevent heat illnesses and ensure players receive prompt assistance if they display signs and symptoms of heat illness.

Heat illnesses are often associated with high temperatures but they can occur during periods of over-exertion, even without extreme heat.

How the Body Regulates Temperature

  • Exercise produces heat, which can be dissipated by sweat and convection (exposure to cool dry air).
  • During exercise, a person produces fifteen to twenty times as much heat as they do while at rest.
  • Exposure to hot air, sunlight or hot surfaces intensifies the heat.
  • High humidity impairs the body’s ability to cool itself.
    • Athletes may not be able to sweat enough.
    • The humidity may prevent evaporation of sweat.

Signs and Symptoms of Heat Illness

  • dizziness, confusion or fainting
  • nausea or vomiting
  • headaches
  • rapid breathing or heart rate
  • fatigue or weakness
  • extreme thirst
  • poor co-ordination
  • lack of sweating
  • ashen or grey skin

If an athlete experiences these symptoms during heat, they should cease exercising and move to a cool place and consume fluids (especially water). Lowering the body’s temperature is imperative.

Risk Factors

  • High exercise intensity
  • Lack of physical fitness
  • Poor acclimatization to the heat
  • Dehydration
  • Previous incidents of heat illness
  • Chronic medical conditions

Heat Stroke

  • Key Symptoms: Watch for confusion, slurred speech or lack of consciousness. Body temperature is over over 40°C. Skin is hot and dry.
  • Heat Stroke is a medical emergency. Call 911 and perform first aid.
  • Lower body temperature as rapidly as soon as possible.
  • Move athlete to a cool and shaded area and remove unnecessary clothing.
  • Immerse in ice water tub or a cold shower if possible. Use ice packs on groin, armpits and neck and back area.
  • Administer water if athlete is conscious and cool the skin.
  • The athlete should not participate in physical activity and be cleared by a physician before returning to play.

Heat Exhaustion

  • Key Symptoms: Fatigue and weakness, cramps. There may be some minor confusion or dizziness. Skin is moist and clammy.
  • Remove from the activity to a cool and shaded place.
  • Administer fluids and cool the skin with water or a moist cloth.
  • Take a cold shower or bath.
  • Allow sufficient time for rest and recovery.

Heat Syncope

  • Key Symptoms: Fainting after intense exercise in a hot environment
  • Lie down with legs raised or sit down in a seated area.
  • Slowly drink water or clear fluids.
  • Monitor vital signs and perform additional first aid if required.
  • Allow sufficient time for rest and recovery.

Heat Edema

  • Key Symptoms: Fluids pool in the hands, legs and feet.
  • Wear compression garments to stimulate circulation.
  • Keep muscles loose and limber.

Heat Rash

  • Key Symptoms: Skin irritation ranging from blisters to red lumps to itching.
  • Keep the skin dry.
  • Practice and play in a cooler and dry environment.

Heat Cramps

  • Key Symptoms: Involuntary muscle contractions due to dehydration or overexertion.
  • Consume fluids, massage and breathe deeply.
  • Eat low Glycemic Index foods including sodium, potassium and calcium.

Heat Illness Prevention

Explain the signs and symptoms of heat illness to the team so all team members can look out for each other.

What Coaches Can Do

  • Move practice time to a later time in the day.
  • Arrive at the location in time to acclimate to the environment.
    • Utilize a progressive training plan over ten to fourteen days to adjust to the temperature.
  • Train at game intensity to build physical fitness.
  • Young children are not able to sweat as much and should be monitored carefully.
  • Explain the signs and symptoms of heat illness to the team so players can watch out for themselves.

What Athletes Can Do

  • Consume plenty of fluids throughout the day.
    • Drink before and during the activity (small sips).
    • Watch for dark-coloured urine.
    • Wear moisture-wicking clothing.
    • Improve cardiovascular fitness.

List of Resources