Fighting Heat-Related Injuries in Soccer

Dec 29, 2021

No matter the time of year, it’s possible to suffer a heat-related injury in soccer. It’s more likely to happen during the summer when the sun is blistering hot and a player is more likely to be dehydrated. 

However, it can happen in the middle of winter as well, especially inside a heated indoor facility. Regardless of when it occurs, heat-related injuries are serious and can even be life-threatening. This post will take a look at how players can reduce their risk of suffering heat-related injuries. 

Signs of a Heat Injury

A heat injury occurs when the body’s thermoregulatory (temperature-controlling) mechanisms can’t cool the body down in the face of extreme heat. Mechanisms such as evaporation and sweating simply can’t keep up with the heat, and the body begins to malfunction as a result. 

A “heat injury” is an all-encompassing term that describes three types (or levels) of sickness caused by excessive exposure to heat. In other words, heat injuries are not made equal. They start off small with uncomfortable yet minor complaints, but can rapidly escalate into serious and life-threatening emergencies. 

In soccer, heat injuries usually occur when players are subjected to extreme climates (ie. very hot weather in different countries). Of course, other factors may contribute to heat injuries as well, such as having a pre-existing condition that affects the body’s ability to regulate temperature.  

Heat Cramps

The mildest form of heat injury a soccer player can suffer is heat cramps. A heat cramp occurs when the sodium (salt) levels in the body drop too low. 

Symptoms include weakness, muscle cramps, and low blood pressure that may lead to collapse. 

Treatment for heat cramps involves replacing salts, either orally or intravenously if the player is vomiting. Fortunately, an easy way to avoid heat cramps is to eat a little more salt on the day before and the day of a game. 

Heat Exhaustion

Heat exhaustion follows heat cramps and has more severe effects. 

Symptoms of heat exhaustion include irritability, collapse, and the inability to sweat adequately (anhidrosis). 

Treating heat exhaustion requires submerging the player in a cooler environment. This may include a room that’s cool (or cold) with the help of fans or a tub for an ice bath. 

Heat Stroke 

Heat strokes are the most severe of all heat injuries, and they are life-threatening medical emergencies. 

When a heat stroke occurs, the body’s temperature-controlling mechanisms fail altogether. The only way to cool down at this point is with immediate medical attention. 

Symptoms include mental confusion, delirium, headache, loss of coordination, convulsions, and body temperature of 106 F / 40.5 C or higher. Without prompt treatment, death may result. 

Treatment of a heat stroke involves immediate medical attention at a hospital. The patient will likely receive wet towels, spray mists, and sponge baths to cool them down. Doctors will also have to monitor vital signs and ensure they’re in a cool environment. 

How to Prevent a Heat Injury

Heat injuries are nothing to play with. They can affect any player, striking suddenly and rapidly progressing into an emergency if not quickly addressed. With that said, preventing a heat injury is easier and more ideal than treating one and it’s fairly straightforward to do so. 

Stay Hydrated

Drinking enough water is vital to keep heat injuries at bay. The rule of thumb is to drink before you feel thirsty because, by the time you feel thirsty, you’re already dehydrated. Another rule of thumb - albeit a bit of a gross one - is the more yellow your urine looks, the more dehydrated you are. 

So stay properly hydrated. The right amount of water for your body depends on your age, sex and weight, but the standard is 24-32 ounces per hour (no more than 48 ounces per hour).  

Take Breaks, Stay Cool 

We’ve talked about overexertion in the past. Not only can it lead to strains and sprains, but overexertion can also have more immediate effects, one of which is heat injuries. This is more likely to happen when playing under extreme heat without a few breaks.

So the best thing that players can do is to take breaks and stay cool. This means sitting in a cool area and hydrating vigorously to avoid feeling parched and overheated. 

Avoid medications that may decrease heat tolerance before games

We won’t spend too much time on this one, but it’s worth mentioning. Some medications can raise body temperatures such as those used to treat ADHD (Dexedrine, Ritalin), thyroid deficiencies, and even antihistamines such as Benadryl. 

If a player relies on any of these medications, it would be wise to speak with their doctor to see how it can affect their performance on hot days. Modifications in dosages or dose timings may be needed. 

Wear lightweight, loose-fitting, breathable jerseys 

An overlooked aspect of reducing heat injury risk is to wear appropriate clothing. The right soccer protective gear can keep you cool even on the hottest days so that your body isn’t overwhelmed by extreme heat. For example, our Storelli soccer goalie jerseys are lightweight and breathable so that air can circulate within the fabric and keep you cool. These jerseys are available to all positions on the field, as and for men, women, and youth. 

Escape the Heat, Stay on Your Feet

Heat is usually a minor complaint, an element to get used to, but it can also endanger players. That’s why it’s important to protect yourself by staying hydrated and cool and wearing the right gear to avoid overheating. In addition to these measures, coaches should be mindful of the conditions and how they can affect players’ health.  

That may call for rescheduling games when necessary so that no player is subject to extreme heat unnecessarily. Heat injuries are easily avoidable as long as coaches and players are willing to take precautions. 

Are you looking for the best jerseys for better performance and heat protection? Browse through our selection of jerseys and goalie tops! head

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