Before student-athletes can run, they must walk, so to speak. They shouldn’t be exposed to the full exertional deman ds of their sports too soon. That’s why it’s important for student-athletes to participate in at least six to eight weeks of preseason conditioning that will allow their bodies to gradually adapt to the rigors of their sport.
Special attention and additional conditioning time should be afforded to student-athletes who are competing in the heat. To minimize heat-related illnesses, student-athletes should gradually be exposed to longer practices and workouts over a 10-to-14 day period.
Responsible preseason conditioning helps guard athletes from the complications related to sickle cell trait. If those with sickle cell trait are placed under extreme physical conditions without adequate preparation and training they might be afflicted with extreme physical distress through rhabdomyolysis, organ failure or death. To avoid these severe consequences, student-athletes should engage in slow and gradual preseason conditioning before they engage in sports-specific performance testing or are forced to endure the strains of competition. Read the joint NCAA and American College of Sports Medicine statement on sickle cell trait and exercise.
If coaches expect student-athletes to spend the bulk of the preseason practicing sport-specific skills, they should encourage those athletes to engage in a progressive comprehensive conditioning program for at least four weeks before preseason practices and workouts begin. Injury risk increases greatly if coaches or athletes themselves demand too much of their bodies on day one of the preseason without having achieved a high level of overall, not sport-specific, fitness.
Training volume and intensity should increase only in a carefully scheduled manner. Difficult workouts should not be tossed in at random. Recovery time should be part of any training schedule to promote physical development and avoid illness or injury.
To ensure that all student-athletes and coaches partake in proper preseason conditioning and acclimatization practices, a member of an institution’s sports medicine staff should have the authority to stop or modify a preseason practice or workout if they feel the health and safety of student-athletes are in jeopardy. Decisions made by the sports medicine staff should be final and cannot be overruled by coaches or other school officials.
To reduce the risk of an exercise collapse, all exercising individuals, including those with known sickle cell trait, should be counseled to:
It’s important to begin workouts well hydrated and to maintain hydration levels throughout any workout or practice. If a student-athlete is dehydrated entering, or during, a strenuous workout performance will decline as core temperature and heart rate can spike and cramps, fatigue, and headaches are more likely to occur. It’s best to drink 16 ounces of water two hours before exertion and eight ounces 15 minutes before a practice, workout or game. Throughout the event, student-athletes should be sure to drink four ounces of fluid – two or three large gulps – every 15 to 20 minutes.
Many student-athletes spend a large portion of their day in the sun. While staying hydrated and not overexerting in hot temperatures are important, student-athletes shouldn’t forget to protect their skin as well. Student-athletes who will have prolonged exposure to the sun should rely on SPF 30 or higher sunscreen to combat cancer-causing UV radiation. Reapply that sunscreen every two hours and wear sunglasses that block UVA and UVB rays. In addition to sunscreen, protective clothing can keep harmful radiation at bay.
Last Updated: Aug 23, 2013