Heat Stroke Leading Cause of Death in High School Athletes


Heat Illness Statistics

  • Heat Illness is A Leading Cause of Death in US High School Athletes

  • Since 1995, Three Football Players Die A Year of Heat Stroke, Mostly HS athletes

  • From 1999-2000, more than 8000 heat-related deaths in US

Heat Illness Prevention For HS Athletes

  • Slow Increase in Pre-Season Practice and Intensity

  • Hydrate Before, During, and After Practice

  • Recognize Signs and Symptoms of Heat Illness

We’ve been hearing all week about the hottest temperatures of the season happening right now. However, with August and back to school right around the corner, I’ve also been reminding my high school patients and their parents that heat related illnesses can still occur when it’s not so hot and humid.

Here are some alarming statistics. According to the CDC, heat illness during practice or competition is a leading cause of death and disability among US high school athletes. In addition, since 1995, three football players a year on average die of heat stroke, most of them high schoolers, according to the National Center for Catastrophic Sports Injury Research. From 1999-2010, more than 8000 heat-related deaths were reported in the US (CDC).

Those high school students who have activities in the fall include those in football, soccer, cross country, golf, cheerleading, and even marching band. Traditionally, in July and August, these athletes are not as physically fit as opposed to when they officially begin. We do know that lack of physical activity and obesity are additional risk factors for heat-related illnesses.

Specifically for high school athletes, I recommend three tips to lower your chance of heat related illnesses. First, especially in July and August, slowly increase your pre-season practice schedule, especially in hot and humid weather. This will help your body get more acclimated to the hot temperatures. Secondly, remember to properly hydrate before, during, and after strenuous activity. Finally, I talk to these athletes about recognizing the signs and symptoms of heat-related illness.

We’ve been hearing all week that signs and symptoms of heat related illnesses include dehydration, heat cramps, nausea, vomiting, headache, dizziness, and confusion. If athletes start to notice and/or recognize any of these symptoms, tell your coach or parent immediately. Prevention is critical, and it may save a life.

Addendum: Thanks to WKBN for making this blog post into a story on their website: “Preventing heat stroke: Know the signs of heat-related illness.”