Staff Photo: John Bohn Stephanie H. Hsu, MD speaks on heat related illnesses as Gwinnett Medical Center and Gwinnett County Public Schools host a clinic for Gwinnett County public school coaches about heat and concussion issues with athletes. The event was held at the Gwinnett Center Theater on Saturday.
DULUTH -- With fall sports set to officially kick off practices in a little more than a week, Gwinnett County is being proactive to ensure all coaches are up to date with medical issues their athletes could face.
In conjunction with Gwinnett Medical Center, the school system provided a seminar for area coaches on a multitude of topics, including CPR, recognizing heat injuries and prevention, the impact of concussions, and an overview of state and federal laws as it relates to various medical issues.
"With all of the attention on concussions in sports and the heat-related incidents that have happened in Georgia over the last couple of years, our goal is to be proactive as we enter into the beginning of another exciting season of athletics," said Mike Emery, Director of Athletics, Student Activities and Community Schools for Gwinnett County Public Schools.
One of the highlights of the seminar focused on heat-related illnesses, especially considering the humidity that is felt around the area during the fall.
Dr. Stephanie Hsu, who works with Sports Medicine South, spoke about how the heat and humidity affects athletes and the importance of taking the proper precautions.
"Heat and humidity decrease the body's ability to evaporate sweat," she said. "And, it doesn't always happen in a progressive manner. Sometimes it can happen very fast and without any warning."
During her presentation, Hsu described the three types of heat illnesses one can get -- heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke.
"Heat cramps are usually one to three minutes, but can last a miserable six to eight hours," Hsu said."At this point, fluid replacement is absolutely necessary. The body is in need of electrolytes, so something more than water is needed, like a sports drink and/or a salty snack."
Then, there's heat exhaustion, which occurs when sweating cannot dissipate the heat generated within the body.
"Before you feel thirsty, you already lost two percent of your body weight from sweating," Hsu said. "It starts to affect mental and cognitive abilities."
After that, comes heat stroke, which is an abnormally elevated body temperature and is one of the three leading causes of death in athletes, according to Hsu.
"When this happens, immediate treatment is needed," Hsu said. "Rotate ice-pack coolings between the neck, armpits and groin until medical personnel have arrived."
The main thing Hsu stressed to the crowd was to learn the symptoms, know how to spot them and know what to do when one of the three are present in an athlete.
"Safety is the top priority, so being prepared is key," she said.