Valley doctor advises caution for student-athletes training in the heat

By: Santiago Caicedo

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates more than 9,000 student-athletes are treated for heat-related illnesses every year.

Heat illness during practice or competition is also the leading cause of death among high school athletes. With the start of football training at several Valley schools, many might wonder how it's possible an athlete could practice under such hot weather.

Harlingen High School football coach Manuel Gomez says he’s well aware of the heat-related dangers, stressing the need for his players to drink water way before they hit the field.

“If it's hot, you got to drink water,” Gomez said. “If not, you can’t survive.”

If players feel overheated or confused, coaches say they will not force them to continue practicing. Some practices start as early as 6:30 a.m. in order to avoid any heat exhaustion during the day. Students will also use ice to cool off their hands, feet and head. 

But how are these teens able to practice under the summer heat?

“Acclimatization of the body is important,” said UTRGV family medicine professor Dr. Jesus Garza Tamez.

Dr. Tamez says student-athletes should practice between 7 and 9 in the morning, but they should do it consistently, so their bodies get used to the outside temperature.

As for everyone else, the intense heat could be deadly, especially for babies and the elderly.


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