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When you finish this chapter you will be able to:

  • Explain the environmental factors to be considered when caring for athletes.

  • Describe the physiology of hyperthermia and the clinical signs of heat stress and how they can be prevented.

  • Identify the causes of hypothermia and the major cold disorders and how they may be prevented.

  • Determine the risks associated with repeated overexposure to the sun and determine an appropriate SPF for specific conditions.

  • Discuss the importance of an Emergency Action Plan (EAP) and describe the precautions that should be taken with lightning storms as it relates to athletics.

  • List the problems that air pollution presents to the athlete and how they can be avoided.

  • Describe what can happen to an athlete who is training at high altitudes.

  • Discuss what effect circadian dysrhythmia (jet lag) can have on athletes and the best procedures for handling this problem.


One of the primary responsibilities of a coach or any other fitness professional in preventing injuries is to make certain that the practice and playing environment is as safe as it can possibly be. Certainly no one has control over the weather. However, the potential dangers of having athletes engage in practices or competitions when adverse weather or environmental conditions exist cannot be ignored.50 Ignoring or minimizing the potential threat to the health and well-being of athletes who are forced to practice or compete under adverse environmental conditions can have serious legal consequences should a situation arise that results in injury to an athlete.22 The adverse environmental conditions that tend to pose the greatest potential for injury in the athletic population are hot, humid, sunny conditions that cause hyperthermia; cold and windy conditions that cause hypothermia; overexposure to the sun; lightning and thunderstorms; altitude; jet lag; and air pollution.

hyperthermia Increased body temperature.

hypothermia Decrease of body temperature.


An ever-present concern of practicing or competing in a hot, humid environment is the problem of hyperthermia. Hyperthermia refers to an increase in body temperature. Over the years, particularly among football players and wrestlers, a number of deaths have been caused by hyperthermia.17 It is vitally important to understand when environmental heat and humidity are at a dangerous level and to act accordingly. Remember that an individual does not have to be in the South to experience heat-related illnesses. Heat and humidity occur in every geographic region of the United States, and anyone who supervises athletes that practice and compete in these environmental conditions must be able to recognize the clinical signs of heat stress and manage them properly.8

Heat Stress

Regardless of the level of physical conditioning or age, extreme caution must be taken when exercising, particularly in ...

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