Awareness is key to preventing heat- and cold-induced athletic injuries

December 3, 2012, American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons

Extreme heat or cold can cause dangerous and potentially fatal side effects in athletes. A literature review appearing in the December 2012 issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (JAAOS) provides an overview of the risk factors, signs and symptoms, and management of various conditions related to excessive heat and cold exposure.

"Both extreme heat and cold can be challenging for athletes during training and competition," said lead study author Benjamin Noonan, MD, MS. "One role of the team physician is to educate coaches and athletes on the risks of exposure to these conditions and how to best prevent and manage their adverse side effects."

Cold Exposure

Injuries related to excessive cold also are caused by an imbalance between and heat loss, and can cause the body's core temperature to significantly drop, and/or an extreme drop in the tissue temperature and loss of blood flow in the extremities. Appropriate and adequate clothing can prevent cold-related injuries. is greatly enhanced once clothing becomes saturated from sweat, rain or snow. The primary cold-related injuries include:

  • Hypothermia
  • Frostbite
Heat Illness

Heat-related illness are common, with heat stroke—the most severe side effect of exposure—being the third leading cause of death in athletes after cardiac disorders and neck traumas, according to the review. "This is tragic because the consequences of severe heat illness can be mitigated by early detection and recognition by the team physician," said Dr. Noonan.

Heat stroke is commonly reported during the first four days of sports practice each year. "A slow introduction into activity to allow for acclimation in the summer months, instead of jumping into two football practices a day," can help prevent heat illness, said Dr. Noonan. Also, athletes should take plenty of water breaks. If an athlete presents with the symptoms of heat illness or stroke, "we should not hesitate to check rectal temperature to gauge severity; as we think that early recognition and intervention lead to improved outcomes."

Increases in core body temperature during exercise are the result of changes in the balance of how much heat the body is producing and releasing. Heat is generated during exercise, most often in working muscles, and must be transferred to the skin and released into the environment to avoid overheating. Heat that is not released contributes to elevated core body temperature, and can result in mild to severe, and even life-threatening, illness and injury. Heat-related conditions—from least to most severe—are:

  • Heat Edema (Swelling)
  • Heat Syncope (Fainting)
  • Heat-associated Cramping
  • Heat Exhaustion

Explore further: Heat stroke and exercising in the summer

Related Stories

Heat stroke and exercising in the summer

August 23, 2011
Heat-related illness accounts for about 700 deaths a year and is the nation’s No. 1 weather-related killer, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The dangers of heat stroke are especially prevalent ...

Heat and humidity conspire for discomfort, danger

July 21, 2011
(AP) -- When it comes to the discomfort and health risks of the current heat wave, it's not just the heat or the humidity - it's both.

Football players can beat the summer heat by getting ready now

May 6, 2011
Getting acclimated to the heat now, before two-a-days begin in August, will help football players avoid cramps, dehydration and other potentially serious injuries that could put a damper on the upcoming season.

Beat the heat: Exercise safety on hot summer days

June 22, 2012
(Medical Xpress) -- It’s already been one of the warmest years in decades and the 90-plus degree temperatures just keep coming. It’s always important to be conscious of weather conditions when you exercise, but ...

How to stay safe in extreme summer heat

June 9, 2011
Blazing temperatures can bring on serious illness if you're not careful. Dr. Abhi Mehrotra, an emergency physician at UNC Hospitals, offers tips on protecting yourself and your family against extreme heat.

Pediatricians: Sports in heat OK with precautions

August 8, 2011
(AP) -- Playing sports in hot, steamy weather is safe for healthy children and teen athletes, so long as precautions are taken and the drive to win doesn't trump common sense, the nation's largest pediatricians group says.

Recommended for you

Surgeons have substantial impact on genetic testing in breast cancer patients who need it

July 3, 2018
For many women diagnosed with breast cancer, genetic testing can offer important information that might guide treatment choices. But studies have shown that only about half of women who could benefit receive genetic testing.

First major study comparing robotic to open surgery published in The Lancet

June 21, 2018
The first comprehensive study comparing the outcomes of robotic surgery to those of traditional open surgery in any organ has found that the surgeries are equally effective in treating bladder cancer. The seven-year study, ...

Antibodies may predict transplant rejection risk

June 19, 2018
The presence of certain antibodies in patients may suggest a higher risk of transplant rejection across multiple organ types, including the kidney, liver, heart and lungs, according to a new study published in PLOS Medicine.

First human test of robotic eye surgery a success

June 18, 2018
Researchers from the University of Oxford have completed the first successful trial of robot-assisted retinal surgery.

Surgical blood transfusions tied to clot risk

June 13, 2018
(HealthDay)—Blood transfusions around the time of surgery may raise your risk for dangerous blood clots, researchers say.

Tonsil and adenoid removal associated with respiratory, allergic and infectious disease

June 7, 2018
Tonsil and adenoid removal associated with long-term risks of respiratory, allergic and infectious diseases Removing tonsils and adenoids in childhood increases the long-term risk of respiratory, allergic and infectious diseases, ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.