Practicing in the Heat

Holding practice during the late summer in preparation for the fall league and tournament season means that you’re dealing with the potential of extreme heat and humidity. As adults we have to be careful about being outside when the combination of heat and humidity drive the heat index above 100 degrees. Children are particularly vulnerable to heat-related illnesses, because their bodies do not get rid of heat as efficiently as adults' do.

I think this is a good time for all of us to be reminded of the signs we should look for in our player:
Symptoms of dehydration include:

  • dry or sticky mouth
  • thirst
  • low or no urine output; concentrated urine appears dark yellow
  • not producing tears
  • being irritable or cranky
  • seeming bored or uninterested
  • headache
  • dizziness
  • cramps
  • chills
  • fatigue

In severe cases, dehydration can cause:

  • sunken eyes
  • sunken soft spot, or fontanel, on the top of the head in an infant
  • nausea or vomiting
  • lethargy or coma

If you suspect that one of your players is dehydrated, move them to a cool, shady area and give them plenty of water, clear juice, or a sports drink. If they don’t feel better soon, take them to see a doctor. If they are unconscious or unresponsive, do not wait; call 911 right away.

A lesser known problem is that of hyponatremia. If a child drinks more water than he needs to replace lost fluid or if he loses large amounts of salt in sweat, this may cause a low blood sodium level, known as hyponatremia. You might suspect this condition if a child who has been sweating and drinking a lot of water becomes lethargic, confused or agitated, feels nauseous, has a headache, or experiences a seizure. Hyponatremia is quite rare but can be dangerous.

Hyponatremia is more likely to happen if a child:

  • does not usually get enough salt in his diet
  • loses large amounts of salt during strenuous or prolonged exercise
  • drinks much more water than he needs during or after exercise

To prevent hyponatremia, it is important to replace both lost water and lost salt, either with a sports drink or a meal.

Be Proactive
Our club has a policy for dealing with extreme heat and humidity. Here is the policy on our web site:

The Guidelines for practice conditions are as follows:

116 and above All practices cancelled
105-115 Pre-K to U11 Cancelled.
U12 and above limited practice or practice cancelled at coaches discretion
104 AND BELOW All Teams Practice

If the temperature is above 90 degrees, frequent water breaks should be taken. Coaches and parents should watch for signs of heat exhaustion or dehydration.

Parents have the primary responsibility for keeping their children safe. Please be aware of weather conditions during practices and games, and be prepared to pick your child up early, or keep them home if warranted.

During hot weather:
Take plenty of water and sports drinks to activity and be sure drink them.
Take a small cooler filled with ice water and towels to drape around your head and neck during breaks in activity.
Stay in shaded areas as often as possible.
Report feelings of dizziness or nausea to an adult -- immediately!
Remember that SOCCER IS A GAME!
Health and safety of players should be our number one concern.

Practicing on Turf Fields
As hot as it is on natural grass surfaces, it can be much hotter on turf fields. While I feel very fortunate that our club practices on beautiful turf field (that recently hosted the USYSA National Championship) they are HOT in July and August. During the last two weeks the combination of heat, humidity and turf fields has forced us to move our practices to the morning. Luckily, most of our coaches have flexible schedules that allow them to do this.

What does your team or club do when the temperatures soar?

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