Take steps to protect your league’s members from heat illness. Heat stroke, heat exhaustion, and heat cramps are all highly possible outcomes for your players and volunteers if they are not protected from the sun’s power. When games are played in high heat or heat and high humidity, precautions should be in place.
According to the American Association of Pediatrics (AAP), children’s bodies can’t tolerate heat as well as adults, so don’t expect them to perform in the same conditions you can.
Watch for heat illness signs: weakness, dizziness, slow pulse, and clammy skin. If sweating can’t cool the body, especially because the player is dehydrated, heat stroke could develop. Signs of this are confusion, collapse, rapid pulse, and dry skin (no longer sweating).
The AAP notes heat stroke may cause convulsions or even unconsciousness. This is a medical emergency and professional help should be sought immediately. In some cases, heat stroke can kill, but it can also cause permanent brain damage in victims who survive.
Drink Early, Drink Often:
Remember, the best protection for heat illness is water and rest. The maxim is: drink early, drink often, even when players aren’t thirsty. Players should arrive for games/practices adequately hydrated and drink at least five (5) ounces of water every 15-20 minutes while they are active in the heat.
Ask players to bring water or a sports drink with modest amounts of electrolytes, but nothing with caffeine that acts as a diuretic and drains water from the body.
Try to provide water for players wherever possible at your facility.
Evidence shows that sunscreen of at least SPF 15 should be applied to exposed skin every time children will be in the sun for extended periods, to help keep the player cool and to protect against future skin cancer risk.
Take first steps:
- Provide sunshades for all dugouts and spectator areas as possible.
- Provide cool water and wet towels (with or without ice) for players and umpires to apply to necks.
- Recommend participants utilize topical sunscreen on a regular basis and encourage its use on all exposed skin. Take breaks in the shade between innings, or every 20 minutes.
- Set up a sprinkler in a grassy or paved area where players can cool off.
Take it to the next level:
- Install a water mister near or in dugouts to boost cooling.
- Provide umpires with a Camelback-style water container for hydrating during innings.
- Develop a “cool room” in your concession stand, or just a tent with walls, with fans or air-conditioning for those overcome by heat.
Anyone who begins to develop cramps, dizziness, or other signs of heat stress should be removed from the game, given cool water, and placed in as cool a place as possible: in a car with air-conditioning or in a cool, shaded area.
Make sure volunteers know to call 9-1-1 if the player becomes disoriented or confused, as this is a sign of the more serious heat stroke.