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Beat the Heat

To help keep athletes safe and performing at their best during the hot summer months, Gatorade has once again joined forces with the NFL to educate athletes, parents and coaches about heat-related illness and the importance of proper hydration and nutrition before, during and after practices and games. As part of the 2011 Beat the Heat program, NFL players, coaches and their families will lead hydration awareness efforts and help raise funds for two organizations dedicated to preventing heat-related illnesses - the Korey Stringer Institute (KSI) and the Kendrick Fincher Memorial Foundation (KFMF).

"What athletes, parents and coaches need to know is that heat-related illnesses are largely preventable," said Douglas Casa, Ph.D., Chief Operating Officer of KSI, which is housed at the University of Connecticut.  "The Beat the Heat program aims to raise awareness about this issue and provide educational resources to optimize the prevention, recognition, and treatment of heat-related illness during the summer practice season."

The ongoing team effort between Gatorade, the NFL and their designated charities is built on communicating heat-illness prevention and treatment techniques. The organizations have collaborated to create and distribute the Gatorade Heat Safety Kit, an educational resource for athletes, parents and coaches which beginning in July can be downloaded at no cost from the NFL's official Web site at www.nfl.com/trainingcamp. For every unique download of the Gatorade Heat Safety Kit, Gatorade will donate $1, up to $20,000, to Beat the Heat charities.

The Korey Stringer Institute is named for the late NFL player Korey Stringer, who died of complications after an exertional heat stroke that occurred during football practice. The institute, created with the support of the NFL and Gatorade, is the result of a collaboration between Casa, a noted exertional heat stroke expert, and Korey's widow, Kelci Stringer. The Kendrick Fincher Memorial Foundation was founded by Mike and Rhonda Fincher in memory of their son Kendrick, an Arkansas teenage football player who succumbed to complications from heat stroke during the summer of 1995.

"The Beat the Heat program unites a number of outstanding organizations whose goal is to reduce the number of heat-related injuries by engaging parents, coaches and players," said Jennifer Storms, vice president of sports and event marketing for Gatorade. "Our shared commitment is a great way to educate on how to prevent heat related tragedies nationwide."

Research conducted by the Gatorade Sports Science Institute (GSSI) found that as many as 70 percent of high school football players could show up for practice inadequately hydrated. The recommendation of drinking fluids prior to practice increased the number of players appearing to be adequately hydrated upon arrival to practice. Scientific research has shown that dehydration or poor hydration increases the risk for heat illness.

"Heat-related illnesses need to be taken seriously at all levels," said Pepper Burruss, head athletic trainer for the Green Bay Packers. "Dangers caused by overexposure to high temperature and humidity are preventable if coaches and players know the early warning signs and athletes stay cool and hydrated. Simple steps like allowing for acclimatization to temperatures, adjusting the intensity of practice to environmental conditions and keeping the right types of fluids accessible, such as properly formulated sports drinks like Gatorade, can help athletes stay safe on the field and performing at their best."

The Gatorade Heat Safety Kit includes educational resources from the Gatorade Sports Science Institute, as well as an explanation about the "4 Downs" of Heat Safety - Prevent, Prepare, Proper Hydration, Plan - which athletes, parents and coaches should consider before engaging in practice or other strenuous physical activity in hot weather.

The Gatorade Heat Safety Kit will be available for download at no cost at www.nfl.com/trainingcamp. And for more information on heat illness prevention, please visit www.nfl.com , http://ksi.uconn.edu/ , www.kendrickfincher.org or www.gatorade.com.


  1. Prevent - Know how to avoid heat illness, identify the warning signs and treat the symptoms
  2. Prepare - Take the time to acclimate to the heat and hydrate properly BEFORE you get to practice
  3. Proper Hydration - Choose options like sports drinks and nutrition to help replace electrolytes, especially the sodium lost in sweat. Hydrate before, during and after practice and games by drinking to match or replace sweat loss
  4. Plan - Have a plan to contact medical professionals in an emergency. Also keep a "cool pool" or ice bath nearby so medical personnel can choose to immerse players suffering from heat stroke if necessary.

For more information, please consult www.gssiweb.org



Football is a game of strength, speed and skill - all of which can be affected by what, when and how much an athlete eats and drinks.  To stay safe on the field and ready to perform, athletes must approach staying properly hydrated and fueled with the same level of intensity they bring to practice and competition.  The right sports nutrition and hydration before, during and after activity can play a vital role in helping athletes get the fuel they need to achieve peak performance.  These tips will help keep athletes safe and in the game.

  • All athletes benefit from optimal hydration.  This is not just a game day issue, but a daily priority.  To prevent dehydration, especially in hot, humid conditions, athletes need to drink enough of the right fluids, before, during and after physical activity.
  • Options like sports drinks and nutrition give athletes fluid to rehydrate, carbohydrates to fuel muscles, and electrolytes like sodium to help maintain fluid balance and help prevent heat-cramps.  Sports drinks also taste good which encourages voluntary drinking to stay properly hydrated.
  • Coaches should weigh athletes before and after practices to determine individual fluid losses and monitor them to ensure they replace every pound lost with approximately 20 ounces of fluid.
  • Athletes should check the color of their urine.  If it's pale like lemonade, that's a good sign of hydration.  If it's dark like apple juice, they need more fluids

For more information, please visit www.gssiweb.org


Heat Illness and Emergencies
Heat-related illnesses have many factors involved but can be caused when an individual is subjected to extreme temperatures and humidity, and is unable to cool down. Dehydration also can be a factor. Dehydration makes it more difficult for your body to function properly and takes a toll on your performance.

Causes of Heat Emergencies
Primary contributors to heat-related emergencies include:

  • Heat and high humidity
  • Extreme physical exertion
  • Layered or rubberized clothing
  • Inadequate fluid intake

Warning Signs - What to Look For
Without taking precautionary measures, players might experience a heat-related illness. In some cases, they might be unaware they are experiencing this condition and continue practicing. Coaches should periodically check players during practice or workouts for the acute warning signs of heat illness, which can include:

  • Nausea
  • Headache
  • Weakness
  • Fainting
  • Poor concentration
  • Flushed skin
  • Light headedness
  • Loss of muscle coordination
  • Fatigue
  • Vomiting

Types of Heat Illness

  • Heat Cramps: Some athletes may experience heat cramps. This type of cramp is the tightening and spasms experienced in large muscle groups (e.g. quadriceps, hamstrings, etc..). It is often preceded by heavy sweating and large electrolyte losses. If an athlete is experiencing heat cramps, he or she should stop the activity, find a cool spot to gently stretch and massage the muscle, and drink appropriate fluids like sports drinks that contain important electrolytes including sodium.
  • Heat Exhaustion: Another type of heat illness is heat exhaustion. Signs and symptoms of this problem can include profuse sweating, dehydration, fatigue, lightheadedness, rapid pulse, and low blood pressure.  Body temperature may be slightly elevated.  If heat exhaustion is suspected, the athlete should lie in a cool place with legs elevated, have cool, wet towels applied to the body, drink cool fluids, and have someone monitor their vital signs. With heat exhaustion, often the ill athlete feels better when he or she rests in a cool place and replenishes fluids by drinking cool liquids. Continue to monitor the athlete. If signs are present that the illness is severe or progressing, activate the emergency action plan and follow the emergency action steps, Check-Call-Care. Check the player for signs.  Call 911 or the local emergency number immediately. Have someone administer your emergency care plan.
  • Heat Stroke: This is the most serious heat-related illness. With heat stroke an athlete will have a high body temperature - 104° F or higher - and could have red, hot, dry or moist skin, vomit, be incoherent or lose consciousness, have shallow breathing and/or a weak pulse. He or she might experience mild shock, convulsions, or a coma, and can die from heat stroke.  If he or she goes into respiratory or cardiac arrest, begin rescue breathing or CPR, as appropriate. Cool by any means possible, as quickly as possible. Keep an ice bath or "cool pool" nearby so emergency personnel can decide whether to immerse the player.  If necessary, trained medical personnel should place the player in an ice bath while monitoring core body temperature and call for emergency medical services (EMS). Continue to cool and monitor the player while awaiting EMS. 

What Coaches Should Know
When players are practicing or competing, coaches should follow the following steps to help prevent heat-related illnesses:


  • Allow 10-14 days of light activity in the heat  for adjusting to warmer climate/temperatures, and schedule less intense practices using lighter equipment at the start of the practice season
  • Schedule practice during cooler times of day
  • Athletes should hydrate throughout the day. Coaches and parents should teach athletes how to monitor their hydration levels by checking the volume, frequency, and color of their urine. If they are hydrated, their urine should look like lemonade. If their urine looks dark, like apple juice, they may need to drink more fluids.
  • Coaches should encourage athletes to weigh in and out before and after practices to determine individual fluid losses. (See "After" section for more details.)


  • Schedule and enforce frequent drink breaks and rest periods during physical activity
  • Remove pads and practice in T-shirts and shorts
  • Reduce intensity and/or length of training with high temperatures and/or humidity
  • When it comes to keeping athletes safe on the field, water may not be enough. While water is fundamental to the body, it does not hydrate as effectively as a properly formulated sports drink with sodium.
  • Ask athletes to buddy up during practice with a teammate to monitor for warning signs of heat illness
  • Overexposure to high temperature and humidity can cause heat-related illnesses. The National Weather Service issues heat alerts when the daytime heat index (a combination of temperature and humidity) is 105° F or more, which can dramatically increase the risk of the most serious heat-related illnesses. At 80-105° F, fatigue and heat stroke are also possible with prolonged exposure. Athletes playing in the heat for long periods of time wearing protective padding are especially at risk.
  • Be prepared by having an ice-filled tub ready for immersing a player in case of an emergency. Carry a cell phone on the field at all times. Know the precise address of the practice or game field and any specific directions required by EMS responders. Remember to cool first before trying to transport the athlete.


  • Weigh athletes following practice and compare to their weight beforehand to determine fluid losses. Coaches should monitor athletes to ensure they replace every pound lost during practice with approximately 20 ounces of fluid.

Not All Athletes are Alike
Certain types of athletes might be at a higher risk for heat-related illness and should be monitored closely. These types of players include:

  • Those with a prior history of heat illness
  • Overweight or obese players
  • Players with a medical history of gastrointestinal, diabetic, kidney, or heart problems.
  • Players who were recently (within 2 weeks) ill with upper respiratory illness or cold or flu virus.

These athletes may require special attention by coaches and quick action if any symptom of heat illness is noticed.

Age Matters
Coaches working with kids should know children may be less tolerant of heat stress than adults, and may be at greater risk for heat illness.

Hot Weather Safety Tips 
An important step in avoiding heat illness is adjusting practice or game length and intensity to the environmental conditions. Temperature and humidity combine to create conditions that can produce heat illness and dehydration.

  • An air temperature of 95 degrees Fahrenheit is high risk regardless of the humidity.
  • An air temperature of 85 degrees Fahrenheit and humidity of 60 percent or above.
  • An air temperature of 75 degrees Fahrenheit and humidity of 90 percent or above. 

Equipment Makes a Difference
When necessary, coaches should instruct players to do the following that can help to evaporate heat from their body:

  • Wear net-type jerseys
  • Wear T-shirts and shorts, not pads, as they acclimate to the heat
  • Remove helmets when not playing or scrimmaging
  • Avoid wearing sweatshirts and excess clothing
  • Change sweat-soaked clothing

Hydration Guidelines

  • Flavored, cold, lightly salted, and/or sports drinks like Gatorade improve voluntary fluid replacement by players, especially the younger athletes
  • Athletes need to think about hydration before, during and after physical activity. A player should be fully hydrated before beginning practice or competition. Fluids lost through sweat and breathing should be replaced by fluid consumption including during workouts, practices and games (physical activity).
  • During activity, players should have unrestricted access to appropriate fluids. Thirst is a late indicator of the need to hydrate.  Dehydration has occurred once thirst is turned on.
  • The best approach, particularly in hot environments, is to have players weigh in and out each day to help determine adequate fluid replacement needs.  Following a competition or workout, the coach should have players weigh out and drink enough to match their weight loss.  Remember 16 ounces is one pound. For each pound that the player did not replace, the player may need to consume 20-24 ounces to fully rehydrate for the next training session.
  • Players should consume food and drinks that contain a liberal amount of salt. Options like sports drinks and nutrition provide some benefit over water because sports drinks give athletes fluid to rehydrate, carbohydrates to fuel muscles, and important electrolytes like sodium to help maintain fluid balance.