West Warwick Soccer Association: SAFETY FIRST

Thursday, September 11
Heat-induced illness / Dehydration


Heat-induced illness is one of the most preventable sports injuries. Parents, young athletes and coaches need to understand the physiological factors that put children and adolescents at risk for heat-related illness and take steps to prevent it.

Exercising children face unique stresses when they perform intense exercise in the heat. Like adults, they may have trouble adapting to the physiological demands of high environmental temperatures when participating in soccer practice and game situations. When a youth is also dehydrated this may exacerbate the response to exercise in the heat.

The physiological/psychological reasons that place children at risk are:

Children absorb more heat from a hot environment because they have a greater surface-area to body-mass ratio than adults. The smaller the child the faster the heat absorption.

• Children and adolescents may have a reduced ability to dissipate heat through sweating.

• Children and adolescents frequently do not have the physiological drive to drink enough fluids to replenish sweat losses during prolonged exercise.

• Youth athletes may be more easily distracted when occasions allow for them to rest and rehydrate.

• Some youth athletes may be under intense pressure to make a competitive squad and may not want to report feelings of heat distress or take the appropriate amount of time to rehydrate.


In addition to physiological considerations, several factors specific to the sport of soccer place young players at risk for heat illness. However, these risks can be reduced significantly with the close attention of medical staff (i.e. athletic trainers), parents, young athletes and their coaches. These soccer-specific factors are:

• Limited stoppage time during matches, with players constantly running and moving.

• Young soccer players are not encouraged to use the limited stoppage time they do have for fluid consumption.

• Games are held outdoors, often in high temperatures and humidity, on large fields that offer little or no shade. Heat radiated by the sun is a major component of heat stress. This issue is complicated by limited access to shaded areas for players between halves or between games.

• Young players fail to drink enough fluids at tournaments and summer camps, where numerous games and practices take place each day.

• Games and practice sessions are often not modified when players are confronted with extreme heat and humidity conditions.

Additional Factors to Consider

Communication between playing fields and medical tents at tournaments is sometimes insufficient. Many teams fail to recognize the need and/or importance of using light-colored, loose-fitting uniforms. Referees could be unaware of the need and/or importance of fluid breaks. Mental alertness and skill performance decline with dehydration6 and could be a factor in injuries occurring late in matches and training sessions.


Acclimatization to the heat is an important factor in preventing heat illness. The rate of acclimation for children is slower than that of adults7. A child needs as many as 8 to 10 days (45-60 minutes/day) in the new climate to acclimate sufficiently. Such exposures can be taken at a rate of one per day or one every other day. A majority of the benefits of acclimatization occur in the first 4-6 days and hence this should be an absolute minimum amount of time provided to children before intense practice and game situations are enacted. During the acclimation process, it's important to drink adequate amounts of fluid to build blood plasma volumes.

When a child becomes heat acclimated, the child's sweat rate and total sweat losses increase because they begin to sweat sooner and produce more sweat than before becoming acclimated. This allows the child to dissipate more body heat into the environment through sweat evaporation. When a child becomes acclimated and the child's sweat rate increases, it's important the child drink sufficient fluids to replace the increased sweat losses and stay hydrated. Medical staff, parents, players and coaches must understand that thirst is not a good indicator of a child's fluid needs,8 so children need to drink on a schedule (see FLUID GUIDELINES below).

Children must wear clothing that is light-colored and lightweight to facilitate evaporation of sweat. Parents and coaches should encourage breaks in a shaded area whenever possible, especially during tournaments, multi-game and multi-practice days. It's important to be aware of high temperatures and humidity and change practice and game times to cooler portions in the day, such as morning and dusk. Additionally, competitive rules need to be relaxed during hot weather playing conditions by allowing a 5-minute break in the middle of each half and allowing water bags to be carried by players during play. Practices must be modified based on conditions. Add rest breaks to lower core temperature and provide ample time to rehydrate.

Thursday, September 11


The U.S. Soccer Federation provides these guidelines to help parents, players and coaches prevent dehydration and heat illness in young athletes who are active in the heat:

1) Weigh each player before and after activity to determine how much fluid he or she loses during activity. If a player is lighter after activity then encourage a little more fluid consumption during the next practice/game. If the player is heavier after activity then encourage a little less fluid during the next practice/game.

2) According to the American Academy of Pediatrics:

Before prolonged physical activity, the child should be well hydrated. During the activity, periodic drinking should be enforced even if the child does not feel thirsty and each 20 minutes the child or adolescent should consume:

• 5 ounces of fluid for a player weighing 90 lbs or less

• 9 ounces of fluid for a player weighing more than 90 lbs. Supporting research states:

To ensure that the child is not dehydrated before the start of the practice session or game, the child should drink 12-16 ounces of fluid approximately 30 minutes before getting to the field.

Once the activity is over, players should drink water or a sports drink every 20 minutes for an hour

* Recent research shows that adolescent males typically lose 1-1.5 liters per hour when performing intense soccer practices/games in the heat, while younger males and females will lose from 0.6 to 1 liter per hour.

3) Teach the youth soccer player to monitor his/her own hydration status with the following tip: If their urine (as it flows, not when diluted in the bowl) is a pale yellow like lemonade then they are likely pretty well hydrated. If their urine is dark yellow like apple juice then they are likely dehydrated. This is an easy and accurate way to assess hydration status and it gets the kids involved on a personal level.

4) Kids need to drink enough of the right fluids to replenish fluid losses during activity.

Flavored beverages that contain sodium (sports drinks) are preferable because the child may drink more of them.

Research shows that lightly sweetened and flavored non-carbonated beverages, like sports drinks, are preferred during exercise and are consumed in greater volumes than water, diluted fruit juice or carbonated beverages.

Research shows that fluids containing sodium chloride (sports drinks) increase voluntary drinking by 90%, compared to drinking plain water.

5) In addition to replacing fluid, children also need to replace the electrolytes, such as sodium, lost through sweat. Electrolyte replacement is important to stimulate an adequate thirst mechanism, help the body hold on to fluid, help prevent muscle cramps17 and to maintain sodium levels in the blood.

6) Fluids children should avoid immediately before and during activity include fruit juices, carbonated beverages, caffeinated beverages and energy drinks.

Fruit juices have a high sugar content, which can slow fluid absorption and cause upset stomach, may also lack sodium. Carbonated beverages, such as soft drinks, can reduce voluntary drinking due to stomach fullness and throat burn when gulping and lack sodium. Energy drinks should be avoided because many contain caffeine and have high carbohydrate concentrations, which slows the emptying of fluids from the stomach.

7) Be sure that each child has his/her own beverage container and that they have the opportunity to keep it cool during the practice. An individual container will allow them to monitor fluid consumption more accurately, can be filled with beverage of personal preference, will help avoid the spread of germs and viruses and the cool fluid will be replenished at a better rate than a container that sits out in the sun.

Additionally, it is important to note that dehydration also hinders exercise performance. So to maintain the same level of intensity while dehydrated the athlete will have to work even harder to keep up with everyone else.