Sunday, August 5, 2012

Feelin’ Hot, Hot, Hot!

This summer in the Midwest sure has been a hot one.  Thankfully, a break in the oppressive temperatures appears to be here—just in time for the start of the high school fall sports practice season.  While the weather will be relatively cooler, two-a-day practices on days with highs in the 90s and high humidity still put athletes at risk for heat injury.  Fortunately, heat injury is largely preventable with a little common sense.

When an athlete exercises, the body’s temperature is elevated and the body sweats to cool itself down.  Body fluid and critical electrolytes are lost in the process.  If fluids and electrolytes are not replaced, dehydration occurs, increasing the risk of heat injury.

Symptoms of heat injury may include:

·         Cramps

·         Chills

·         Dark urine

·         Dizziness

·         Dry mouth

·         Weakness

·         Thirst

·         Headaches

·         Nausea and vomiting

·         Confusion

Heat-related illness can be prevented.  Athletes should stay hydrated before, during and after exercise.  Light, loose clothing should be worn and skin should be exposed as much as possible.  They should train appropriately to be ready for the heat, usually starting with short, low intensity workouts that may gradually increase over 7-14 days.  This allows the body to get used to the conditions safely. 

Coaches and parents play an important role in prevention, as well.  Each should strive to be able to recognize early signs of heat injury.  Practicing during the early morning or later evening hours decreases risk.  Additionally, workouts should be altered when heat and humidity are high, and when individual athletes are not ready for the heat.

Hydration is the most important way to prevent heat illness.  Athletes should drink at least 16 ounces of water or sports drink one hour prior to exercise.  During exercise, they should continue to drink regularly, about 4-8 ounces every 15-20 minutes.   If an event lasts longer than one hour, or if there will be multiple bouts of exercise in a day (like a tournament), a drink containing carbohydrates and electrolytes should be used.  Most sports drinks will do the trick.  Otherwise, plain water is fine.

If you see any signs of heat illness, you may be dealing with a life-threatening emergency.  Do not hesitate to call for an ambulance early on if an athlete seems to be in trouble.  While you are waiting, begin cooling the athlete by getting him or her to a shaded area.  Consider placing the athlete in a pool of cold water, if available.  If not, placing ice bags or cold towels around the neck, armpits, and groin will help.  Provide cool beverages if the athlete is able to drink.  Act quickly, as these interventions may save someone’s life.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Exercise Helps Decrease Arthritis Pain!

Did you know that arthritis is the leading cause of disability in the United States? 22% of adults have arthritis. For many of my patients a diagnosis conjures up fears of needles, medication side effects, and ultimately--surgery. Most look at me with disbelief when I tell them that exercise--even weightbearing exercise--may actually help alleviate their pain.

Numerous medical studies have shown that physical activity is an important but underused intervention for adults with arthritis that decreases pain, delays the onset of disability, improves physical functioning, mood and independence, and enhances quality of life, aerobic capacity, and muscle strength.

Here are some recommendations for all adults:

• 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate intensity, or 1 hour and 15 minutes a week of vigorous intensity aerobic physical activity.
• Additional health benefits are provided by increasing to 5 hours a week of moderate intensity aerobic physical activity, or 2 hours and 30 minutes a week of vigorous intensity physical activity, or a combination of both.
• Muscle-strengthening activities that involve all major muscle groups performed on 2 or more days per week.

Brisk walking is a good example of moderate intensity exercise and more intense jogging is considered vigorous. Biking and swimming are also good options.

It is often difficult for folks to find time in their busy schedules to exercise, but the great thing is that these periods of exercise can be broken up into small chunks. Even a ten minute bout of exercise is worth it. Strive to do enough of these a week to add up to the recommendations above. Those knees won't ache as much if you do!

For more ideas on exercise activities: