Hydration Can Help Prevent Life-Threatening Heat Injury

High school football: Heat, drought put emphasis on hydration

Mark Ambrogi | indystar.com Jul. 29, 2012

Park Tudor School junior football player Chris Elbrecht never wants to experience an ice bath again.

“I was shivering like crazy,” Elbrecht said. “It was one of the worst things.”

Yet it was likely an experience he couldn’t live without. That ice bath followed a serious dehydration incident during a game last season and might have saved his life, said his father, Chris Elbrecht Sr.

With a majority of high school sports practices beginning today, Elbrecht’s story serves as a reminder of how important hydration and the relatively cheap and easy precaution of having access to an ice bath at practices and games are with temperatures expected above 90 degrees throughout the next week.

Near the end of the first half of Park Tudor’s opener on a warm evening last August, Elbrecht crumbled to his knees on the sideline. He was playing receiver and defensive back, and on punt and kickoff returns. Elbrecht had come off the field feeling lightheaded and thought he was just dehydrated.

But it was far more serious than he originally thought.

“My body temperature was getting really high and going up quickly,” Elbrecht said. “Everybody reacted quickly. They knew they had to cool me down quick.”

After seeing an article in The Indianapolis Star two weeks earlier, then-coach Scott Fischer had consulted with athletic trainer Betsy Bradley about having ice baths available on the sideline. The school bought two kiddie pools for the ice. When Bradley diagnosed Elbrecht with heat exhaustion, she insisted hebe put in an ice bath instead of rushing him to a hospital.

The first 5 to 10 minutes are crucial in determining whether someone survives heat stroke brought on by exertion, making the kiddie pool a better option than an ambulance.

Thirty football players have died due to heat-related injuries the past 10 years, including five high school athletes last year, according to a study by the National Center for Catastrophic Sports Injury Research at the University of North Carolina. That’s an increase over 22 the previous 10 years despite the fact that these athletes could almost certainly be saved for $25: the cost of a kiddie pool and some ice.

Park Tudor was running low on ice — the athletic department staff didn’t realize a 700-person tailgate before the game depleted the campus’ supply, something athletic director Brad Lennon said would not happen again — so police officers went to a nearby gas station convenience store. Elbrecht, who lives in Cicero, went into hyperthermia after the ice bath “but once I got my body temperature up, I started feeling better,” he said.

Despite the life-threatening incident, Elbrecht’s treatment allowed him to return to practice a few days later and he played in the next game.

“I’ve learned you can’t just drink when you’re thirsty, you have to hydrate all through week,” Elbrecht said.

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