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Prepare young athletes for a safe sports season

Houston, TX - 7/25/2013

Being outside now can reduce chances of heat-related illnesses later


With summer practice and fall sports seasons quickly approaching, youth athletes need to start training now to help prevent heat-related illnesses.

After spending the first month of their summer vacation watching television or playing video games, the bodies of young athletes quickly become accustomed to air conditioning.

Prepare young athletes for a safe sports season

"Kids need time to adjust to the heat," said Dr. David Lintner, orthopedic surgeon and chief of sports medicine at Houston Methodist Hospital. "Going from all-day air conditioning to practicing outside three to four hours a day can put young athletes at risk for heat-related illnesses, such as heat exhaustion or heatstroke."

Lintner, head physician for the Houston Astros and team orthopedist for the Houston Texans, says young athletes should progressively increase their time outside to slowly acclimate their bodies to being active outside again. He recommends that an average, healthy young athlete start spending 20 minutes a day outside and slowly increase their time until they are spending two to three hours outside a day.

Exercising, playing games, doing yard work, relaxing at the beach – just being outside in the heat helps prepare a young athlete for outside practice, Lintner said.

Parents need to know the signs of heat-related illnesses and when to call for professional medical help.

Symptoms of heat exhaustion include nausea, dizziness, weakness, headaches, weak pulse, dilated pupils, disorientation or fainting spells. Heat exhaustion can be treated by taking the young athlete inside, drinking plenty of water and resting.

While heat exhaustion and heatstroke share many similar warning signs, symptoms unique to heatstroke include confusion and hot, dry skin. Heatstroke is a medical emergency and should be treated immediately. Call 911 if you suspect a young athlete is experience heatstroke.

"Every day, I treat athletes of all levels at Houston Methodist Orthopedics & Sports Medicine, but it’s up to parents and coaches to take the necessary steps to help prevent heat-related illnesses," Lintner said.

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