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Parents, coaches urged to protect youth athletes from heat

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Have your fun in the sun, but take steps to protect yourself and your family against heat-related illness. The Tennessee Department of Health is encouraging parents and youth sports leagues to prevent heat-related injuries this summer as part of the observance of National Heat Awareness Day May 25.

“Both heat and humidity play a role in the body’s ability to regulate its internal temperature and should be taken into consideration when planning outdoor activities,” said TDH Assistant Commissioner for Family Health and Wellness Morgan McDonald, MD. “High body temperatures can lead to serious damage to the brain and other organs, so it’s important to pay attention to your body’s signals.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are about 9,000 cases of heat-related illness among high school athletes in the U.S. every year. Heat exhaustion occurs when the body is unable to cool down due to prolonged exposure to extreme heat or increased physical activity.

Signs of heat exhaustion include:

• Heavy sweating
• Cold, pale and clammy skin
• Fast, weak pulse
• Nausea or vomiting
• Muscle cramps
• Tiredness or weakness
• Dizziness
• Headache
• Fainting (passing out)

Sports teams can do their part in preventing heat-related injuries by including heat policies in their emergency action plans. Some simple policies to adopt are:

• Changing games and practice times to avoid the hottest times of day

• Taking off pads and other equipment

• Providing more breaks on hot days

• Maintaining proper hydration

• Becoming acclimatized to heat

•Monitoring the heat index every 30 minutes and stopping all practice or play when it reaches 104 degrees (Heat index is a measure of how hot it really feels when relative humidity is factored in with actual air temperature.)

Community sports leagues can earn recognition for their work to prevent heat-related illness and other injuries by participating in the Safe Stars Initiative. Safe Stars is a free rating system recognizing youth sports leagues throughout Tennessee for providing the highest level of safety for their young athletes. Safe Stars consists of three levels: gold, silver and bronze, and involves implementation of life-saving policies around many injury prevention topics including weather safety.

Learn more about the Safe Stars Initiative and apply today at

The mission of the Tennessee Department of Health is to protect, promote and improve the health and prosperity of people in Tennessee. TDH has facilities in all 95 counties and provides direct services for more than one in five Tennesseans annually as well as indirect services for everyone in the state, including emergency response to health threats, licensure of health professionals, regulation of health care facilities and inspection of food service establishments. Learn more about TDH services and programs at