Beating that Mississippi summertime heat

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Published: July 10,2006

Business folks heading for respite from work this summer via a leisurely game of golf or a hard-hitting tennis match may soon discover that an air-conditioned office isn’t all that bad.

However, because most of them have a healthy spirit of competitiveness, heat and humidity won’t keep them indoors.
What are sports trainers’ secrets to beating the heat?

“You have to be ready for it,” said Dave Randall, head pro at River Hills Club of Jackson, which hosts half a dozen tournaments annually. “There’s no getting around the heat.”

Starting hydrated

Don’t start a sports activity thirsty, cautioned Mike Wilkinson, head trainer for the Mississippi Sports Medicine and Orthopaedic Center in Jackson.

“Make sure you’re well hydrated,” he said. “Drink 20 to 25 ounces of electrolyte solutions such as Gatorade and Powerade at least an hour prior to your activity, and then drink 12 to 15 ounces of fluids — water or electrolyte drinks — every 15 to 20 minutes during your activity.”

When Josh Jeter (this writer’s stepson) was playing college football at Delta State University and then Millsaps College in the late 1990s, he drank one large chilled grape Pedialyte the night before every game. Four hours before the game, he drank half of another one, and rehydrated with the remaining Pedialyte during half time.

“When it comes to hydration, I take a ‘failing to prepare is preparing to fail’ approach,” said Jeter, now a professional speed, agility and quickness trainer at D1 Sports Training in Memphis. “If an athlete loses only 1% of their body water, he loses a great deal of ability to make rational decisions and judgments. On average, a football player loses more than that during every single practice so it’s imperative to hydrate before the fact. If you’re drinking because you’re thirsty, it’s too late.”

Watch out

Warning signs of heat exhaustion are unusual fatigue, muscle cramping, decreased athletic performance, nausea, light-headedness, extreme sweating, chills, and clammy, pale skin. Warning signs of a heat stroke include having extremely hot, red skin, a high fever and being incoherent or unresponsive. “This is a medical emergency,” said Wilkinson. “Death can occur shortly if not treated immediately. Remember, the symptoms of heat exhaustion don’t always precede heat stroke.”

If you find yourself dehydrated and cramping up, swallow a tablespoon of mustard to help alleviate the symptoms because mustard seed is a natural muscle relaxant, said Jeter, who pointed out that downing a spoonful of pickle juice is also effective.

“When I put on a camp or clinic, I always tell people to drink a lot of water before they start and I give lots of water breaks,” said Jeter. “We have an emergency plan for just such a thing and everybody on my staff is well versed on hydration and its properties. I set forth our plan of action every time an athlete feels dizzy or is cramping and we go into action.”

The emergency plan consists of immediately re-hydrating the athlete, and then placing ice packs on the back of the neck, armpits and inner thighs, where the majority of blood runs through a body. If an athlete is cramping, Jeter stretches out the cramps to control them before moving the athlete. “And of course, I don’t let that athlete continue to work out for the rest of the day,” said Jeter.

Wilkinson also cautioned athletes to check their urine color. “If it’s pale, you’re probably hydrated,” he said, “but if it’s bright yellow, you’re probably dehydrated and at a great risk for heat problems.”

Wear light breathable fabrics such as cottons or the newer synthetics that help dissipate heat through the fabric, recommended Wilkinson.

“If your shirt becomes saturated with sweat, this may prohibit the transfer of heat since a wet shirt may not allow the body to breathe, thus raising the core temperature of the body and putting one at risk for heat stroke,” he explained.

Proactive measures

Clubs are taking proactive measures to offset liability issues emanating from heat-related injuries. Several years ago, a senior player died of a non-heat-related heart attack on the tennis court at River Hills. As a result, the club purchased defibrillators. All clay courts have awnings or umbrellas; all hard courts will have shaded areas when the club’s $11-million renovation project is completed.

“For example, we schedule senior play earlier in the morning, and younger folks to play later in the day,” said River Hills Club general manager Barney Chadwick. “For the most part, tennis players are used to playing in conditions that are demanding in terms of heat. They’re pretty familiar with precautions to take to preserve their health.”

Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynne W. Jeter at Lynne.Jeter@gmail.com.

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