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ACSM Commentary

In the midst of winter across most of the United States, two developments have sharpened focus on heat injuries in sports. Recent news reports involving deaths of athletes in professional and high school American football has resulted in more public attention about how to better protect athletes and active people from these risks.

The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) has commissioned and published guidelines on fluid replacement and exertional heat illness, as well as specific topics including youth football and heat stress. These guidelines uniformly provide strategies to prevent and treat heat injuries.

Yet, severe incidents from heat-related complications in sports continue to occur. ACSM recognizes that policy development and broader recognition of existing guidelines is needed, and also says the plan should extend to workers, military personnel and other people who are exposed to heat risks in an occupational or recreational setting.

Heat injuries or illnesses, including heat stress and heat stroke, often occur when people exercise in hot and humid conditions they are not accustomed to or exercise harder than usual in high temperatures. The heat generated by the muscles is not removed by sweat evaporation from the body in humid conditions and rising body temperatures are the end result. Children and youth, as well as older adults, are at particular risk.

Beginning with increased awareness of existing guidelines and the adoption of key recommendations, ACSM contends that large-scale improvements can be made to address heat safety and prevention. The College will be examining what can be done to enhance education, build awareness in specific athletic and occupational communities, and develop policy that better promotes prevention.

Heat is notoriously problematic for young football players, particularly during preseason practices. ACSM guidelines (Youth Football: Heat Stress and Injury Risk) for youth football and heat stress emphasize strategies for acclimatization and fluid replacement when high heat and humidity represent a significant danger for heat illnesses and heat stroke. In addition to these strategies, practice uniform and other modifications are necessary to reduce the risk for heat exhaustion and exertional heat stroke in young football players.

For more information, or to access ACSM position stands on "Exercise and Fluid Replacement" and "Exertional Heat Illness during Training and Competition," please visit ACSM statements on heat issues can be found here. Stay tuned to SMB for future updates on this important issue.

Tell us what you think. Email to comment on ACSM efforts regarding heat illness and injuries.


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