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Summer heat can kill, so it's best to be careful

Blasting Post

By MICHAEL LEONARD Sports Editor Published: June 28, 2017 12:00 AM

The death of Kent State University football player Tyler Heintz June 13 was a tragedy.

It also was a stark reminder: Summer heat can kill.

In his preliminary autopsy report, Portage County Coroner Dr. Dean DePerro said Heintz had "a very high body temperature" and likely died due to "hyperthermia."

According to DePerro, hyperthermia can result from exercising in high temperatures and humidity. The body "stops perspiring" and can't regulate its temperature, leading to overheating and life-threatening symptoms that can include shortness of breath, nausea or vomiting. A body temperature of more than 104 degrees Fahrenheit is considered life-threatening.

Every person's body reacts differently to heat, but with summer upon us, Heintz's death is a cautionary tale for all athletes.

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Keep in mind that Heintz was 19. He was a Division I scholarship-level football player, making him a top-tier athlete.

If such a person can be felled by heat illness, it shows how vulnerable all athletes -- and the general public -- can be.

Sadly, deaths due to heat illness among football players are nothing new.

One incident that brought heat issues to the forefront was the death of Minnesota Vikings All-Pro lineman Korey Stringer in 2001. The former Ohio State lineman died in training camp after his core body temperature reached 108 degrees.

In the years since then, the NFL, the NCAA and the Ohio High School Athletic Association have all adopted guidelines to help limit heat illness. The Korey Stringer Institute at the University of Conneticut tries to educate athletes and officials on the subject.

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Of course, not every heat-related incident ends in death, but dealing with even lower-grade heat illness can be very scary.

Don't think it can happen to you? Let me tell you a story.

About a decade ago, I made a trip Washington D.C. to support the Columbus Crew. It was a typical D.C. summer evening with temperatures in the 90s and humidity above 80 percent.

I felt fine and, therefore, didn't pay attention to drinking water in the hot conditions. I did drink a beer, which was a bad move: Alcohol has been known for years to dehydrate people.

Soccer fans will say supporting a team is a participation sport. It's not football-practice level activity, but it's not sedentary either.

Thus, after about 45 minutes, I went from feeling fine to feeling like my heart was beating out of my chest.

After a ride to a D.C. area hospital, I was diagnosed with heat exhaustion and dehydration, which are the early stages of hyperthermia.

It took a cold IV drip and some cold compresses to get back to normal. I think I drank about 10 bottles of water and Gatorade on the drive home.

Ever since then, I've been militant with myself about drinking everyday, especially when exercising.

Thankfully, organizations like the OHSAA are taking heat issues just as seriously, particularly for football during two-a-day practices.

In OHSAA football, every player must go through a five-day acclimation period during two-a-days before moving into full pads. There also are strict guidelines for limiting or postponing practice when the heat index goes above 85 degrees.

As with all illnesses, however, individual behavior is a big part of prevention.

Rough translation: when in doubt, slow down or stop and hydrate. There's no better prevention for heat illness than proper hydration.

The National Federation of State High School Association offer these hydration guidelines:

Drink 16 ounces of fluid two hours before before practices and games.

Drink eight to 16 ounces of fluid 15 minutes before practices and games.

During the game or practice, drink four to eight ounces every 15 to 20 minutes.

After the game or practice, drink 16 to 20 ounces of fluid for every pound of body weight lost.

Of course, "fluid" in this case refers to water and sports drinks like Gatorade. Fruit juices and energy drinks can be counterproductive.

That might seem like a lot to drink. In intense practice situations in high temperatures, however, it's no stretch to say hydration can be a matter of life and death.

If it seems like I'm preaching here, I'm OK with that.

I'd rather be called preachy than have to write a story about a young athlete who succumbs to heat.

Email: mleonard@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-541-9442

Facebook: MLeonardRPC

Twitter:@MLeonard_RPC


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