When the temperature soars, althletes need to do
one thing most of all. Be cool.
Hot weather, as we all know, affects our performance.
As our bodies bake beneath the punishing sun, they aren't
just getting a sunburn. Our blood heats up, moving closer
to the surface of the skin, where it is cooled through
the mechanism of sweating. As a result, we have less
blood in the middle of our bodies, where we need it
So if we have to work out in very hot weather, it's
best to decrease the intensity of the workouts, or to
play when the sun is not so intense. Whatever the choice,
it's imperative to drink a lot of fluids before, during
and after the competition, because thirst is not a true
monitor of dehydration. By the time we become thirsty,
we are already dehydrated.
The good news is that as summer moves into full swing,
a phenomenon called acclimatization takes place. After
a period of time working out in a hot, humid environment,
we get better at it. No one knows what the mechanism
but it's real. In looking at how the weather (affects
performance, humidity is not : to be overlooked, either.
When the air is very humid, there is almost as much
water in it as there is on the skin. Therefore, the
sweat can't evaporate properly and the body can't cool
down efficiently. When .our clothes become saturated
with sweat, the effect is much the same, - and it is
best to change into
Heat injuries are essentially a failure of the cardiovascular
system to respond to high external temperatures, and
they occur on four different levels. The first is heat
syncope-fainting or lighttheadedness. Because the body
has sent all the blood to the surface, it's harder to
get blood to the brain. At this stage, the best thing
is just to lie down for awhile.
Then there are heat cramps-muscular tightening or spasming,
usually in the lower extremities, although any muscle
can be affected. Everyone remembers what happened to
Michael Chang during the French Open a few years ago.
When the muscles are overheated and become dehydrated,
they go into a protective spasm. Heat cramps are not
very serious, but they still can be painful.
Heat exhaustion occurs when sweating can no longer keep
the internal body temperature near normal-the body temperature
can reach as high as 103 degrees. The signs of heat
exhaustion are weakness, lightheadedness, profuse sweating,
nausea, vomiting, headaches and pains allover.
Usually, mental status remains pretty good, but heat
exhaustion is ,tt; more serious and has to be treated
quickly, with icewater in the armpits or cool water
sprayed over the body.
When the body temperature exceeds 105 degrees, it is
considered heat pyrexia, or heat stroke, and is a medical
emergency. At this point, the patient is usually dry,
because he is unable to sweat anymore, and has a beet
red, disoriented appearance. He can actually have seizures,
go into a coma and die. Heat stroke always requires
Most of us won't see heat stroke on the court, but it
is important to realize that these injuries occur on
a spectrum, and if we don't respect heat cramps and
the early signs of heat exhaustion,we can go on and
All things being equal,the physically fit can stand
hot weather a little bit better than the rest of us,
because they generate less heat during the same workout.
The overweight have less surface area per pound, so
even though they may sweat a little bit more, they generate
more heat. Therefore, being in shape before the warm
season begins is a big plus.