Health Watch -- Hot Time on the Football Field

Health Watch is a Public Service of the Office of News and Publications and is intended to provide general information only and should not replace the advice of a medical professional. You should contact your physician if you have questions about any of these topics.

Heat can flatten a football player faster than an all-world linebacker.

Yesterday on Healthwatch we discussed the benefits of organized sports for kids. Today we'll look at one possible danger. Now that school has started again, it's time for school sports, including football. But in much of the country, the temperatures are still summer-like. Doctors at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas say heat and vigorous activity can be a dangerous combination if you don't take proper precautions.

Dr. Craig Crandall, an exercise researcher at UT Southwestern, says hydration is the key. Anyone who's exercising heavily in hot weather needs to remain hydrated in order to prevent heat-related injuries.

A player who has a normal amount of salt in his diet and who only exercises for a couple of hours can rehydrate with water. Someone who exercises for a longer period of time or who eats a low-salt diet may need a sports drink with added electrolytes to adequately rehydrate.
And you may need to drink more than you think. Just drinking until you're no longer thirsty won't be enough to replace the fluids lost during a workout. You have to drink beyond the point that your thirst is satisfied.

Football players may need to get used to working out in the heat by running or walking without pads or helmets before they go into a full workout.