Just as school athletes begin practicing for those first games of football when school resumes, the most intense heat of summer’s Dog Days occur. Band members, cheerleaders, pep squads and football players are looking at long days of disciplined practice on the hottest, most humid days of the year.
In ancient times, people would draw figures in the sky by connecting the stars. The brightest star in the heavens is called Sirius, a dog star in the Canis Major constellation. Ancient Romans thought the earth received its heat from this star due to its rising and setting with the sun during the summer months. The hottest days of summer occur between July 3 and August 11.
The combination of Dog Days and school athletes demand that school officials take extra precautions to prevent heat exhaustion and heatstroke. Parents should attend a couple of practice sessions unannounced to make sure that children are not over-worked or becoming dangerously close to a heat illness.
The following should be adhered to during Dog Days of summer:
- Frequent breaks for consuming sports drinks with added salt, such as Gatorade
- Mandatory 15 minute rest for every 45 minute active session
- Cool water to pour over towels to place around the neck of anyone overheated
- Wristbands soaked in iced-water before applying to wrist
- Watching for athletes who have stopped perspiring
- Cease unnecessary running of laps, etc. after a practice in extreme heat
- Limiting practice sessions to a total of 90 minutes
Salt is lost through excessive sweating while performing strenuous activities in the heat. It must be replaced as soon as possible to maintain the electrolyte balance inside and outside of cells to rehydrate the body.
When being highly active during summer heat and humidity, the body tires more quickly by losing electrolyte balance. Rest is essential for good functioning of all muscles, including the heart.
Instantly cooling the feet, wrist and about the head will bring the core body temperature down to normal more quickly. Anyone who was sweating and suddenly stopped is suffering from heat exhaustion. He must get out of the heat and cooled quickly to prevent heatstroke.
Anything that is required of athletes involving physical activity in summer heat as a means of punishment is uncalled for and may injure or cause the death of an athlete.
If the guidelines above are not followed, athletes are at increased serious risk to their health and possibly, for their lives. Students with chronic health conditions should have a parent or caregiver on the grounds during every practice. Students taking certain medications, including those for ADD or ADHD, have a tendency to overheat more quickly than those who don’t.