As we head into the hotter months of the year this conversation is so important in order to keep our athletes safe. Did you know, when your athletes are hot in the summer heat, water intake does not actually cool down their body temperature!
This is you right now, right?
Yep, it’s true.
I know..I know...if you search for research on this topic you will come across some articles by a few authors discussing how ice slurries or ice drinks significantly reduce core body temperature. This is where science gets difficult and confusing to interpret. Yes, ice slurries/drinks have been shown to reduce body temperature in each athlete compared to athletes drinking room temperature water thereby making it significant in research jargon.
In both cases, temperature increased similarly by approximately 2 degrees, and the difference between the two was only by a few tenths of a degree with ice slurries/drinks being slightly less. That is not going to help in any meaningful way.
In order to avoid heat related illness in the summer training months, it is important coaches understand how we can actually help athletes reduce their body temperature.
Each healthy athlete has glands in their skin that release sweat, the release of sweat cools your skin as it evaporates. The blood vessels under your skin get wider and this increases blood flow from deep in your body to your skin where it is cooler. The cooler blood returns to the deeper areas of the body and helps cool that area. This means the more things you can do to reduce the skin temperature the more effective you will be at controlling body temperature.
Here are a couple of ways you can help your athletes stay SAFE at training this summer by reducing their body temperature.
FANS! Every couple of reps, once your athletes have increased their body temperature, have them stand in front of a fan using external convection to cool down. For facilities that are practicing outside, or do not have any air conditioning, this is particularly important.
GET OUT OF THE SUN! If your athletes are training outside in the summer, it is important to have a well shaded area for your athletes to cool down.
SPRAY BOTTLES! During breaks have your athletes use spray bottles filled with water to spray water on themselves. Using the fan at the same time is a good combination.
COLD COMPRESS! Have your athletes bring cold packs/ice packs to put in a a wet cloth Apply the ice pack/wet cloth to the back of the neck, wrists and forehead.
GET IN COOL WATER. Having large tubs of ice water, if available (likely not practical), is great for sitting in after practice.
MOVE LESS. Organize your practices with less intensive activities on extremely hot days and allow for longer recovery periods
WEAR LIGHTER AND MORE BREATHABLE CLOTHING.
PLEASE NOTE: It is still very important that your athletes stay hydrated because being adequately hydrated has been shown to help improve performance by reducing dehydration.