Summer is in full swing, and it’s peak season to enjoy your favorite outdoor activities. Whether you prefer to participate in the many mountain activities that Colorado has to offer or are more of a team sport person, it’s critical that you understand the risks associated with heat-related illness. Colorado gets extremely hot during the summer, and many sports injuries that occur this time of year are heat related.
Fortunately, heat-related sports injuries are easily preventable. By taking the following precautions, you can safely enjoy your favorite activities all summer long and avoid serious health issues caused by extreme heat.
One of the ways to prevent heat-related sports injuries is to understand the factors that put you at greater risk of heat illness. These include:
Always be mindful of how your body is feeling, especially when you’re exercising at times when you exhibit one or more of the risk factors mentioned above. Taking it easy when you’re at higher risk of heat illness is an important step to preventing injury.
Heat-related sports injuries are most common during the early part of the summer when your body isn’t used to heavy exertion in peak heat. You can minimize this increased risk of injury by acclimatizing your body to heat.
This process involves gradually ramping up your activity levels for the first two weeks you’re working out or competing in extreme heat. Start out with shorter and less intense sessions, slowly increasing the duration and intensity of your workouts as your body adjusts.
You can minimize your risk of heat-related sports injuries by working out when the temperatures are cooler. The hottest hours of the day typically occur between the middle of the day and late afternoon, so avoid exercising during this time if at all possible.
Instead, schedule outdoor athletic activities in the early morning or evening when the heat is less intense. If you absolutely have to be active outside during peak heat of the day, monitor the temperature and humidity, and consider cancelling or delaying your activity if conditions are expected to be particularly extreme.
Proper hydration is critical to your ability to prevent heat-related sports injuries. Make sure you drink plenty of cold water prior to, during and after your outdoor workouts. Consider supplementing your water with sports drinks to replace electrolytes lost from sweating. To stay properly hydrated, drink 4-8 ounces of water every 15-20 minutes you’re exercising.
In addition, make sure you take regular breaks when exercising in hot temperatures. This will help prevent your body from overheating. If possible, try to spend these breaks in the shade.
Heat illness occurs when your body’s natural cooling systems are unable to properly maintain your body temperature. Fortunately, there are warning signs that you’re experiencing the early stages of heat-related illness, allowing you to seek prompt treatment and avoid developing serious complications from more severe forms of the condition.
In the earliest stages, exercise-associated muscle cramps typically develop. These can occur either suddenly or at times more gradually and result in involuntary, painful contractions of your muscles while exercising.
If you continue exercising through these muscle cramps, you may develop heat exhaustion. Common symptoms include:
Exertional heat stroke, the most severe form of heat-related illness, occurs when your body’s core temperature reaches excessive levels, typically above 105°F. Exertional heat stroke is considered a life-threatening emergency and requires immediate medical attention to restore a safe body temperature.
If you’re looking to optimize your athletic performance and prevent heat-related sports injuries, Colorado Advanced Orthopedics can help. We have one of the most highly skilled and experienced teams of sports medicine physicians along the Western Slope.
We provide comprehensive sports medicine services focused on diagnosing, treating and preventing sports injuries. Our team will work with you to develop a customized plan that will improve your athletic performance and minimize the risk of injuries. You’ll also have access to our in-house physical therapy team who can help you improve your conditioning, further reducing your risk of injury when exercising in the hot summer temperatures.
Contact us today to schedule an appointment. Colorado Advanced Orthopedics serves patients in Meeker and throughout the White River Valley.
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