Why You Should Research Weather Safety Before the Cold Rolls In
- Oct 26, 2018
When you think of weather safety you most likely think of heat stress and dehydration. What most coaches and athletic directors don‘t know is that weather safety is just as critical when the cold rolls in.
In most parts of the country, we’re at that time of year when the leaves start changing, the wind starts blowing, and temperatures start to drop. While autumn may seem harmless, it can present a lot of weather safety issues to your student athletes. Keep reading to find out why you should research weather safety before the cold rolls in so you can better protect the student athletes at your school.
A Harmful Misconception
When your school prepared for this fall athletic season, your Athletic Director most likely sat all of your coaches and trainers down to discuss critical issues. While there were a lot of forms you had to read and sign, your Athletic Director most likely spent a good deal of time talking about heat-related illnesses.
It’s no secret that heat is the focus of many weather safety initiatives in school athletic programs. After all, the CDC reports that heat illness during practice or competition is the number one cause of death among U.S. high school athletes. This focus on heat safety is critical for protecting your student athletes during the beginning of your season, but it can overshadow the less extreme weather safety issues that can happen when the cold rolls in.
This harmful misconception that only the hot days are dangerous can lead coaches, trainers, and players to believe they have nothing to worry about as the heat index drops. This is a myth. There are plenty of dangers that come with colder weather. It’s important to research cold weather safety before the leaves start to fall so you can help shift focus from heat illness prevention to preventing the following issues.
While muscle pulls and tears can happen during any point of your season, they are more likely to happen when colder temperatures creep in. Why? When it‘s colder outside, it takes your student athletes longer to warm up. It also makes it more difficult for their muscles to stay warm. This makes muscles easier to pull and even tear. There is research that shows when muscles cool down, it takes less energy to tear them.
The good thing about researching weather safety is that there are plenty of ways to prevent these injuries in your student athletes. First, make sure they have a good warm up before each practice or game. If your student athletes stretch their cold muscles before doing anything else they can pull them. Instead of stretching, have athletes do some light activity, like jogging or walking, first. Then move into dynamic stretching. This is better than static stretching in the winter because helps keep your athletes’ blood flowing while simultaneously loosening their muscles.
Remember to have your student cool down as well. Whether you win or lose, make sure your team cools down with static stretching to slow their heart rates and stretch muscles. This will help avoid unwanted injuries. Even though it’s already cold outside, this last step is very important.
The next weather safety issue that comes with cold weather is hypothermia. Hypothermia is a medical emergency that occurs when someone’s body loses heat faster than it can produce it. This causes dangerously low body temperatures. The normal body temperature is around 98.6 F but hypothermia occurs when body temperatures fall below 95 F.
You can prevent hypothermia in your student athletes by reminding them to wear layers. You should also know the following warning signs:
- Slurred speech
- Slow, shallow
- Weak pulse
- Clumsiness or lack of coordination
- Low energy
- Confusion or memory loss
- Loss of consciousness
As you can see, a lot of these symptoms are like other sports-related injuries like concussions. That is why the best coaches know the signs and keep a lookout for them when temperatures drop. If one of your players is experiencing any symptoms of hypothermia, make sure you get a trainer involved right away and don’t inflict any jarring movements on the player.
The next weather safety you’ll have to research is asthma. Exercised-induced asthma affects nearly 13% of the U.S. population. While any exercise outdoors in any climate can pose an asthma risk to even the most seasoned athletes, it’s the cold, dry area that increases the risk during the winter months. For many people with regular asthma, just stepping outside in frigid temperatures is enough to cause coughing, wheezing, and chest tightness.
Luckily, there are ways for winter athletes to fight this issue. Rescue inhalers that deliver bronchodilators, like albuterol, fight symptoms by relaxing the muscles that line the airways in the lungs. Athletes can also take precautions like warming up properly and remembering to breathe through the nose. Wearing the right equipment, like a scarf around your mouth, can help prevent symptoms too.
Out of all the summer weather safety issues, dehydration is the one that translates best to cooler temperatures. Although it may seem impossible, it’s actually easier for athletes to get dehydrated when it‘s cold outside.
Think about this: Are you thirsty in the cold? The answer is probably not. This is because the cold diminishes the body’s thirst response thanks to our blood vessels constricting when we’re cold. This allows the body to maintain warmth in its center and cut off flow to the extremities.
Basically, our bodies fool us into thinking we’re properly hydrated. We feel hydrated but we’re not. Athletes drinking less water, coupled with the fact our bodies aren’t conserving water. You can protect your student athletes from dehydration by setting up specific water breaks, reminding them to drink, and encouraging them to bring a water bottle to school and refill it often.
Remember Weather Safety When the Cold Rolls In
Now that you’ve read this post you’re up-to-date on all the weather safety information you need for when the cold rolls in. But let’s face it: Each new season brings its own weather safety risks. The best way to prepare your student athletes for a safe and healthy season is with a weather safety solution for your school.
These solutions can include weather stations, weather alerting systems, and even access to meteorologists. If you‘d like to learn more about the customizable weather safety solutions here at Earth Networks please click the link below.