I recently played tennis seven days in a row and 11 out of 13 days. In these hot, humid summer months, when the temperature is often over 80 (it was 95 two days ago), my routine has been to go on the court around 7 pm and play an hour and a half or two hours until dark. Then a shower, a meal. It’s 10:30 by the time I am done, and I am tired. Too tired and sore for abs crunches and weight lifting, especially on days when I play tennis in the morning for two hours as well.

So here are some guidelines on how to avoid heat injuries (I located them on The Stretching Institute’s web site). Most obvious is to drink gallons of water, but not usually known is to avoid caffeine, alcohol and sugary, fizzy drinks like sodas and cola.

Tips for Training and Playing in the Heat.

Heat injuries, which are totally preventable, are generally defined in three stages:

Dehydration: This is the first stage—your body simply suffers from a lack of fluid.
Heat Exhaustion: This is the next step, and if not treated immediately, serious injury and even death can result.
Heat Stroke: This is the worst stage—a victim can die within minutes.

What Causes Heat Injuries?

There are a number of contributing factors that increase your chances of suffering a heat injury:
High temperatures;
High humidity;
Sun exposure;
Excessive activity and exertion;
Coffee and alcohol;
Medications, especially diuretics; and
Illness, especially vomiting and diarrhoea.

What are the Signs and Symptoms?

There are plenty of warning signs that will notify you, and others around you, that dehydration in setting in. Unfortunately, most people tend to ignore them until it’s too late.
The following signs and symptoms have been arranged so as to begin with the mildest warning signs first. By the time you start to suffer the signs from half way down the list, you’re in big trouble.
Weak, no energy
Hot, dry skin
Weak, but rapid heart rate
Low blood pressure
Rapid breathing

There is one other sign that is often overlooked. The color of your urine will tell you a great deal about your body’s level of hydration. When your body is depleted of fluid and dehydrated, your urine becomes very dark in color. In severe cases it can be a dark brown color. However, when your body is fully hydrated, your urine is a very light color, even clear.

My recommendation; drink fluid until you pee clear. This way you’ll always know that your body is fully hydrated.

How do you Prevent Heat Injuries?

As with all sports injuries, it’s far better to prevent them from occurring, than to treat them after it becomes too late. Prevention is even more important with heat injuries, because if you leave it too late, you may not get a second chance. To follow is a list of things you can do, to prevent heat injuries.

Drink, and drink often. Before, during and after any training or competing. Don’t wait to become thirsty. Remember drink fluid until you pee clear. Water is usually best, however, a good quality sports drink will also help to replace salts and minerals lost through sweat.

In Australia, they have a saying called; “Slip, Slop, Slap!” Slip on a shirt, Slop on some sunscreen, and Slap on a hat. It’s good advice whenever you go out in the sun.

Wear loose fitting clothing that doesn’t restrict your movement, and also allows for a good circulation of air.

Avoid the extreme heat of the middle of the day. If possible schedule your training and playing times around the cooler parts of the day. Maybe even opt for a workout in the pool instead of the running track.

Avoid sunburn at all costs. Sunburn will draw fluid from all areas of your body in an effort to replenish moisture in the skin. Remember, Slip, Slop, Slap.

Schedule plenty of rest time in cool, shaded areas, as part of your training and playing.

If at all possible, acclimatize to your current training and playing environment.

Avoid caffeine, alcohol and sugary drinks like soda, cola and fizzy drinks.

Lastly, use a bit common sense and don’t ignore the warning signs.