Staying hydrated is best way to combat heat on playing field<BR>

At one time it was considered a sign of weakness if an athlete stopped during practice for a drink of water.

Now, it's considered too dangerous not to take a break.

"We're definitely more educated now," Kingman High School football coach Ray Smith said.

"Fifteen years ago you just weren't very tough if you had to take a break.

"Back in those days (when Smith was in high school) our coach would tell us, 'get your ass back in line.' We didn't call it heat stroke, we called it being out of shape.

They didn't have a lot of sympathy.

In the last 15 years there's been a 180-degree turn.

Now there's an influx of training and education."

The recent death of Minnesota Vikings football player Korey Stringer from heat stroke has thrust the dangers of heat and dehydration into the spotlight once again.

It's been reported that Stringer was vomiting excessively and when he died his body temperature had soared to 108 degrees.

Just a week before, a freshman football player at the University of Florida died from complications related to heat stroke.

Dehydration is the primary cause of heat stroke and the less serious, heat exhaustion.

"Heat exhaustion is the feeling of being cool and clammy and nauseous," said Dr.

Donald Morgan, family practice physician.

"But if you take your temperature, it's not significantly elevated.

Heat stroke is beyond that and you pass out or are comatose.

The core temperature is very elevated.

With heat exhaustion you sit down in the shade, cool off and drink water.

If you're hydrated you do not get heat stroke."

There will be added awareness and extra precautions will no doubt be taken this school year.

The coaches at KHS are well educated on the subject and convey the importance of hydration to their athletes.

It will be a hot topic Monday as many KHS teams begin their fall practices.

"Every year (KHS athletics director Tim Casson) sits down with us and talks about heat-related illness," said Darrin Peppard, KHS boys' tennis coach and freshmen football coach.

"I expect we'll hear a great deal about it now.

Being in good shape doesn't really matter.

Korey Stringer was said to be in the best shape of his life.

It's a matter of lack of hydration."

In KHS' athletic handbook, heat-related illnesses are addressed extensively, Casson said.

"A few years ago a young man in Phoenix died of heat stroke," Casson said.

"It awakened everybody in the Valley, state and nationally.

It was so unexpected.

That changed everybody's attitudes towards water breaks and toughness.

"When a kid needs water, we get them water.

Coaches are well-versed on heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

By the time a kid realizes he's in trouble they are disoriented and it's too late.

You watch for the signs and you tell the kids, 'you get thirsty, you drink.' "

Precautions

Not only is drinking water during exercise important, being hydrated before working out is the best precaution to avoid problems with the heat.

Peppard said he urges his athletes to carry water bottles around with them and stay hydrated throughout the day.

"If you wait until you're thirsty, then you're two quarts behind and you'll never catch up," Morgan said.

"At least two hours before practice you should drink two quarts or water."

Morgan said water is the best liquid to drink and that there "is no significant advantage to sports drinks."

"The labels say they replace nutrients, but in the U.S.

we get enough of those from the foods we eat.

Water is just as good."

Morgan said to stay away from sugars.

Drinking pop, tea or coffee can make it worse since they are diuretics.

Regular breaks during practice are essential as is the availability of water.

Runners don't carry 20 pounds of pads and equipment, but can feel the effects of heat as their body temperature rises.

"The first day of practice, and at a camp this summer, we talk about hydration and make sure everyone is hydrated enough," KHS cross country coach Anne Bathauer said.

"Days before a race we make sure they have enough water and feel good when they run.

If they're sick, have a headache or feel dizzy they don't run.

"I can't run with the kids anymore.

I have to have my car there in case something happens.

We have water throughout the course (in practice and meets)."

Coaches and athletes must be even more aware of the heat when traveling to Phoenix for Northwest Region competition.

Many times meets or games will be scheduled either very early - in the case of cross country - or late for football games.

"I watch it especially during doubleheaders in Phoenix," Peppard said of the heat during tennis matches.

"We make sure we keep fruit and water in the cooler.

If your enzyme levels and potassium is up that helps.

We look for early warning signs.

If the body overheats it doesn't do a good job of insulating itself."

Smith remembers a time four years ago when his football team almost didn't play at Gilbert after the bus was stuck on the highway for about three hours because of an accident on the road.

"There was no air on the bus.

It was so hot, kids were puking," Smith said.

"We got there and had kids lay down in the shower.

"We told Gilbert we might not play.

That night it stormed and cooled things off, but if it had been the normal 90 degrees, we wouldn't have played."

Smith said KHS athletics trainer, Jenny Dix, who is taking this year off from athletics duties, regularly provided him with information on dealing with the heat.

"Our trainer is on me every year.

She gives me guidelines on heat and humidity.

The information is there," Smith said.

"Our general rule at practice is if you want a drink, go.

My bottom line is, 'would I want to be responsible for a kid's death?"

Smith said other changes over the years have included time of practices - which are later in the afternoon - and rules for practicing with pads.

He said according to AIA rules, the first three days of football practice must be all running with no pads.

"I think more kids are out of shape," Smith said.

"Kids as a rule, even athletes, aren't in as good of shape as they once were.

They don't walk or ride bikes."

Wake-up call

Even athletes who take precautions and know the dangers of heat stroke were jolted when Stringer died.

"My parents were on me during the (baseball) season to drink water, but it didn't click until he died," said Joe Oberlin, who plays baseball and football for KHS.

"We were just talking about it today.

I always get cramps and my dad again was telling me I need to drink more water.

I'll probably get my blood pressure taken and just stay healthy.

"I'll definitely drink more water during football."

E.J.

Hurley, who participates in football, wrestling and track and field, said he thinks about heat-related illnesses – especially in light of the recent deaths — but doesn't dwell on it.

"I felt bad about it.

He was a good offensive lineman," Hurley said.

"It makes you think, but you don't want to think too much about it.

"The worst I've seen happen is heat exhaustion.

It happened to a couple of us.

I felt nauseous and I was throwing up.

You put a cold towel on your head and drink water and cool down.

Then I returned to practice.

"If you feel bad you tell the coaches."

Hurley said he tries to keep hydrated and eat property before practice.

"I drink a lot of water and eat stuff that will help, like bananas for potassium.

I drink a good amount of water before practice, then drink during to keep hydrated.," he said.

"Coaches keep telling us during practice to have drinks."

It's hard for an athlete, especially, to realize that something like death by heat stroke could happen to him or her.

But being educated and taking proper precautions is the best way to combat the heat.