Hot weather brings risks for senior athletes

Thursday, June 9, 2011 | 8:04 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — Although tornadoes are not in the forecast for this weekend's Missouri State Senior Games, that does not mean the weather will not be dangerous for some competitors.

Children and older adults are at a high risk of heat illnesses when exposed to exercise at high temperatures, said Steve Ball, an MU associate professor doctorate in exercise physiology.

"You know it's that time of year," Ball said. "Even inside a gym it is excessively hot. A lot of people don't take the heat illness as a medical emergency, but it definitely can be."

Ball said there are three factors that raise body temperature and can lead to heat illnesses. Exercise creates dehydration, the hot environment keeps people from radiating heat away from there body and the humidity prevents sweat from cooling bodies down.

High body temperatures can lead to heat cramps, heat exhaustion and finally heat stroke, which can be fatal, especially with athletes who may not be acclimatized to exercise in hot summer weather.

Emily Lorenz, the Show-Me State Games media and marketing coordinator, said the event staff has planned for weather-related issues and to provide for the safety of participants.

Water will be readily available at all locations and events around Columbia. A University Hospital emergency medical team will be stationed at Hearnes Center throughout the entire event, ready to help at any location.

"Some of the sports are planned in the early morning and late afternoon and evening to avoid the hottest part of the day," Lorenz said.

Ball said he would encourage anyone participating in the events to begin hydrating several hours before competing and to remain hydrating during and after events are over.

In the case of extreme temperatures or high heat indexes, Lorenz said the games staff will consider shortening events or adding in extra water breaks to keep athletes hydrated.

Friday's forecast for Columbia calls for temperatures around 90 degrees with a 50 percent chance of rain, according to the National Weather Service in St. Louis. Saturday is expected to be cooler with temperatures in the low 80s with similar forecasts for Sunday.

Lorenz hopes the cooler temperatures will keep athletes safe and said her staff also has plans for potential issues with thunderstorms, but decisions won't be made until the day of an event.

"We wait until the day of, because you never know with the weather," Lorenz said. "Hopefully we won't have to deal with any of that."

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