In recent years, the athletic world has met with a more foreboding opponent than even the most talented professional player can deliver—high temperatures during a game. This is especially true for outdoor sports like tennis and football. For example, in 2014, the Australian Open in Melbourne had to suspend its games for over four hours on all of its outside courts due to the heat's detrimental effects on players, ball boys, and spectators. Such extreme weather conditions have underscored the need for proper training and preparation in order to stay healthy and beat the heat. In order to stay in the game, there are some crucial steps you must take to remain safe.
Why it Matters
You should always keep an eye out for the warning signs of heat illness. These symptoms include:
- Heavy sweating
- Moist, cool skin with goosebumps even in the heat
- Weak, rapid pulse
- Muscle cramps
Pay careful attention to the signals your body is sending. If ignored, your body's internal cooling system will stop functioning. Once your body temperature hits 106 degrees, this can lead to kidney failure and possibly death in extreme cases. If you feel dizzy or nauseated during the game, stop immediately and rest in a cool area.
Equipment to Help
You can also employ a few methods to keep yourself cool during a game. There are a number of strategies that can help you maintain your body's cooling process. Before heading out to the court, make sure you are well hydrated. Drink one to two glasses of water before starting your game and keep some insulated water bottles handy throughout the match. If you're going to be out in the heat for more than one hour, consume a sports drink. These drinks replenish the potassium, salt and electrolytes your body loses through sweating. Wear light-colored clothing that reflects the sun. Such clothing should be of lightweight material that can wick away sweat. Examples include various cotton blends. Keep your legs uncovered since they involve active muscles that generate the most heat. And don't forget the sunscreen!
Another practice that is gaining popularity is pre-cooling. Before an important game, athletes often immerse their hands and feet into tubs of ice. An additional method is to apply an ice collar—ice packs wrapped in towels—around your neck. You can also apply ice packs to areas where major arteries are located, including the groin or armpits.
Acclimate Your Body
Preferably, avoid playing during the hottest times of day by scheduling your training and game times before 11:00 a.m. or after 3:00 p.m. Alternatively, try to play in an air-conditioned indoor court. If none of these options is feasible, you can train your body to become used to the heat. When your body acclimates to high temperatures, certain physiological changes take place. You start to sweat earlier and in increased amounts. Less sodium is also lost during this process. If you do take the acclimatization route, be very careful. A trainer or coach should guide you on properly conditioning your body to handle extreme heat environments. Furthermore, you will need to allow 7 to 10 days for your body to become used to the heat.
As countries around the globe experience some of the hottest temperatures on record, these precautions are even more important than ever. Nobody wants to faint from heat exhaustion in the middle of a tennis match. Become a winner on and off the court by preserving your health so you can keep playing a great game.
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