Experts warn athletes to take precautions in heat

July 19, 2011 8:33:40 PM PDT
As Chicago deals with a heat wave, doctors are warning athletes to take precautions when exercising outdoors.

The extreme heat can put a strain on anyone exercising outside. In some cases, it could cause serious health problems, even death.

Doctors say the most important thing to do in extreme heat is to hydrate.

Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Roy Halladay had gone at least six innings in every game he has started on the road since 2007, which was an unprecedented streak. But he was no match for Chicago's heat index Monday night as that streak came to an end when he succumbed to the heat in the fifth inning.

Dave Wallach has done an Ironman triathlon, among other endurance events, and writes a blog on endurance sports. But riding his bike home from work Monday in the extreme heat was too much.

"My head was baking, I started hallucinating," he said."I knew I was in trouble."

A triple-digit heat index can be dangerous for athletes.

"They can actually get to a point where they develop lightheadedness, they get confused and they can actually pass out and, unfortunately, the end result could be death," said Dr. Kathleen Weber, Rush University Medical Center.

Dr. Weber works with DePaul University athletes as well as the White Sox and the Bulls. But the heat is an issue for everybody, including high school football players. Doctors say athletes need to be conscious of the heat and adapt their training accordingly.

"You want to decrease the intensity of the workout. The heat is what it is and the problem with our heat here in Chicago, especially recently, is that it is also very humid," said Dr. Weber.

Extreme heat and humidity often hits Chicago once a summer, and professional athletes have little choice but to just deal with it. The Chicago Fire practiced in the heat Tuesday. They adjusted the routines a little but the players still had to put the time in on field.

"A lot of it is done well before we even get out and practice. If you wait until you're thirsty, you've already missed the boat. So, you know, drinking a lot of water, a lot of Gatorade in the morning. It's important to hydrate while you're playing during the water breaks and then of course afterwards and for the rest of the day.

Doctors say one of the most important warning signs is getting to the point where you stop sweating. That could be heat stroke and you should seek medical attention as soon as you can.

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