Every summer, it seems we hear sad and unfortunate stories of athletes suffering heat-related deaths on the practice field. In fact, in one particularly troubling week in August 2011, three high school athletes died on the practice field, prompting one doctor to call it "the worst week in the last 35 years in terms of athlete deaths."
The National Athletic Trainers' Association is taking big steps to prevent those deaths. Yesterday the group released recommendations titled, "Preventing Sudden Death in Secondary School Athletics Programs: Best Practices Recommendations."
Yes, it's a mouthful, but it's also a very important document. NATA says it's the "first ever scientific/medical document that focuses on serious conditions that can affect the high school athlete."
The recommendations provide guidelines for every situation you can think of: catastrophic brain and neck injuries, exertional heat stroke, sudden cardiac arrest, and exertional sickling.
They also provide the following consensus recommendations for schools:
1. Create an emergency action plan in collaboration with coaches, athletic trainers, other medical professionals and campus safety officials and coordinate with the local emergency medical service (EMS) system. It should be site-specific, reviewed each season and updated as necessary.
2. Have athletic trainers on staff: the document reiterates the critical role athletic trainers play in preventing sudden death in sport such as prevention, diagnosis, emergency care and treatment.
3. Ensure that athletes acclimatize progressively to training demands and environmental conditions for optimal safety. Conditioning should be phased in gradually: the first seven to 10 days of any new cycle should be considered transitional. Exercise and conditioning should not be used as punishment.
For more details and a complete look at the recommendations for each specific situation, check out the release on the NATA website.