Football may be a fall sport, but any player’s parent knows that practices often start during the heat of summer. To a kid, the start of these practices means fun with friends, meeting new teammates, and playing their favorite game. As a parent, though, you know that social interactions are not all that summer practices bring; they also introduce the potential for dangerous, heat-related injuries like heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and of course heat stroke. While relatively rare, these illnesses can have deadly consequences, and it’s important to take steps to avoid them.
Here are some ways your child can beat the heat and stay safe during the summertime football season:
1. Taking frequent water breaks – In the hot summer sun, it’s easy for anyone to get dehydrated, let alone someone playing a physically intense sport. Make sure that your team’s coach mandates frequent water breaks to ensure the kids stay hydrated. Give your child a full water bottle before every practice, and make sure they know where they can refill it if water isn’t provided by the team.
2. Dressing appropriately – Football may require heavy pads and other special gear, but your child can wear the uniform and still dress for the weather. Consider getting them clothing that’s designed specifically for warm conditions, such as shirts made from lightweight materials that wick away sweat.
3. Practicing in the early morning or evening – Mid-day practices bear the brunt of the day’s hottest hours, increasing the likelihood of heat-related injuries. Ask the coaches to consider moving practices to either early in the morning or in the evening, when temperatures are lower and the sun is less intense.
4. Educating your kids – Make sure your kids know the signs of heat stroke, exhaustion, and other heat-related illnesses so that if they feel the symptoms, they know to take a break. Simple awareness can go a long way in preventing injury.
5. Speaking up – Football is known for its machismo, but that doesn’t mean your child should be embarrassed to speak up when they don’t feel well. It’s natural to want to “tough it out” during practice, but encourage them to speak up and tell their coaches if they’re feeling faint or unwell. It’s better to take a few minutes on the bench (and possibly some razzing from teammates) than it is to risk tragic consequences.
Heat-related illnesses are dangerous, but by taking a few simple precautions, and making sure that your child is aware of the signs of heat illnesses, you can keep your kid safe while still letting them play the game they love so much.
Kara Alcamo is a concerned mother, freelance writer and contributor to the Ross Feller Casey website.