How to keep athletes safe from heat illness as high school sports practice begins amid a brutally hot summer

As temperatures rise, heat illnesses are becoming an increasing risk for athletes, particularly in the first few weeks of practice. We asked Susan Yeargin, a co-author of the National Athletic Trainers Association’s position statement on heat illness, to explain the risks and what coaches and players need to remember to keep kids safe.

Why are athletes particularly vulnerable to heat during the first few weeks of training?

When an athlete of any age begins to exercise or train for a sport in hot conditions, the body needs time to adapt. In a natural outdoor environment, this is called heat acclimatization.

In the first three days of heat exposure, the body hasn’t started to adapt, which is why those are the riskiest days for heat illness. Most acclimatization happens by the 10th day, but it takes about two weeks for the body to reach its peak heat acclimatization.

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