ALBEMARLE COUNTY, Va. (CBS19 NEWS) -- After Emily Clancy almost lost her son, Patrick Clancy, to exertional heat illness in July 2017 following soccer practice, she went to Albemarle County Public Schools’ Health Advisory Board to make sure it does not happen to anyone else.
Dr. Lori Balaban, the chair of the board, said in 2018 they implemented the Athletic Heat Management Plan, requiring online classes for coaches, parents, and students. The plan also required athletic trainers to be at every summer practice.
"Having them there to recognize if a student is acting funny or looking like they might be getting ill is really important,” said Balaban. “And they have medical knowledge, so they are able to help intervene if there's a problem on the field."
Stacey Rider is the head athletic trainer for Western Albemarle High School. She said she knows the signs of oncoming heat illness to watch for.
“We tell coaches to kind of keep an eye if anyone is having any personality changes,” said Rider. “They're just dragging or not remembering the plays like they should be. They're just not acting themselves. They're complaining that their stomach hurts or their head hurts or they're dizzy and light-headed. Those are all warning signs that something's not quite right and it needs to be addressed."
To check conditions, trainers use a wet-bulb thermometer.
“Which is based on wind speed, humidity levels, air temperature, and surface temperature as well,” said Rider. “That is all calculated in the thermometer to say okay the wet-bulb thermometer temperature is this, you can only practice for two hours, or you need to practice with pads, or you need to take four breaks within the hour that last at least two minutes each."
Depending on conditions, a practice can be moved from off the turf field to a grass field, because turf radiates more heat. If conditions are worse, then practice is moved inside. If someone is overheating, ice baths are provided.
"Cooling them down is the absolute most important thing to do first and getting to a hospital,” said Balaban. “The guidelines that I've seen show that if you can get someone's temperature down within half an hour that they'll usually do well."
Signs of heat illness are not just for athletes. It is for anyone, anytime. Anyone can check out Albemarle County Public Schools’ Athletic Heat Management Plan, which can be found in the Related Links box.
To find out more on the story of Emily and Patrick Clancy, check out part one of this story in the Related Stories box.