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For Immediate Release: August 19, 2010
Contact: CDC Division of Media Relations
(404) 639-3286

Study Examines Heat Related Illness in High School Athletes

High school athletes are sidelined more than 9,000 days a year because of heat-related illnesses, according to a new CDC analysis.

The analysis, published in this week's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, looked at 2005-2009 data from the National High School Sports-Related Injury Surveillance Study. The data covered nine sports and estimated national numbers based on a sample of 100 high schools.

Football was the sport associated with the most heat related illnesses and August was the most common month for them to occur, according to CDC's analysis. The report also found illnesses were most likely to occur during practice, not game time, and more likely to occur among overweight athletes.

The study looked at the incidence of "time-loss heat illness," defined as illness where a player needed at least one day to recover and missed time on the game field.

Heat-related illnesses included heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke – a medical emergency that in the absence of prompt intervention can lead to loss of consciousness, or more permanent serious medical conditions such as neurologic, cardiac, renal, gastrointestinal, hematologic, or muscle dysfunction and subsequently death.

Since 1995, 31 high school football players have died from heat stroke, according to the National Center for Catastrophic Sports Injury Research.

"One death due to heat-related illness is too many," said Michael McGeehin, director of CDC's Division of Environmental Hazards and Health Effects. "Heat related illness is preventable; the more we know about how and when it happens, the better we can prepare people who maybe most at risk."

Student athletes, parents, coaches and trainers should be educated about the signs and symptoms of heat-related illness and about the importance of proper hydration before, during, and after strenuous activity.

Coaches can help by making sure student athletes have time to get used to hot weather, increasing practice duration and intensity gradually over a 14-day period.

Athletes should drink plenty of water and sports beverages to replace water and salt, and take breaks when needed.

For more information, http://www.cdc.gov/Features/ExtremeHeat/ or visit the MMWR site at www.cdc.gov/mmwr.

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U.S. DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES

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