Exertional heat stroke is arguably one of the most serious medical conditions that can affect athletes. Up to 15% of patients die. Others suffer permanent organ and neurological damage.
What is exertional heat stroke?
By definition, exertional heat stroke encompasses a core body temperature greater than 40°C (104°F) and altered mental status. It is believed to be the culmination of overheating from either dangerous environmental conditions or increases in body temperature from exertion, or both.
In this video, I discuss how athletic trainers and doctors can recognize and treat athletes suffering this emergency.
Recognition of heat stroke
A baseline measurement of the athlete’s core body temperature is critical. The athletic trainer should take a rectal temperature, as it is better at determining core body temperature than other methods of taking a person’s temperature.
If an athlete does suffer heat stroke, athletic trainers and doctors can still prevent the athlete from dying if they recognize it and start treatment immediately.
It’s critical that doctors and athletic trainers recognize any alterations in mental status or other central nervous system dysfunction and obtain a rectal temperature to properly assess core body temperature. Then the medical staff must treat the athlete on site instead of first transporting him to hospital. They should use cold water immersion – putting him in a cold bath – to get his temperature down below 104°F. Then the athlete can be transported to a hospital.
In my new book, That’s Gotta Hurt: The Injuries That Changed Sports Forever, I discuss exertional heat stroke and how we can prevent it and treat it if an athlete develops the condition. If you have kids who play football or other sports in hot and humid conditions, you should read it and take steps to keep your kids healthy. Click here to get your copy!
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