Column: How to Play it Safe to Prevent Deadly Heat Exhaustion

By Shawn McCann 

As the Southland region broils in a summer heatwave, the coronavirus pandemic has created additional concern for young athletes emerging from stay-at-home orders. Kids of all ages, cooped-up for months are now hoping to return to school sports and start exercising again. But unfortunately, triple-digit temperatures combined with vigorous exercise is a recipe for disaster. Most people don’t realize that heatstroke is the number one leading cause of preventable death and are unaware of the telltale signs of the life-threatening condition.

The tragic news of a 17-year-old student and soccer star from Palisades Charter High School who died at a park in Chino Hills has sent shockwaves through the community. According to news reports, Shane Thomas, an All-City soccer player died during an outside training session with his team on Saturday, August 15, when temperatures hit 111 degrees. While investigators believe his death was heat-related they are waiting on autopsy results to confirm why such a promising life was cut short. 

All too often I’ve seen coaches and school sports programs skip crucial safety measures that put student-athletes at risk. Ramping up intensity and duration too quickly can lead to heat-related illness. Holding practices during the hottest daytime hours is a big mistake. Failing to monitor hydration is a critical misstep. Athletes need to consume about eight ounces of fluid every 15 to 20 minutes while working out in the heat. 

Dehydration combined with exertional heat illness caused the heartbreaking death of a 15-year-old football player who collapsed during pre-season practice four years ago at Encinal High School in Alameda. Coaches failed to provide opportunities to rest and drink water while the player engaged in football drills. The school district also failed to have proper emergency response policies in place, including failing to have AED machines on campus.  The boy’s family sued the school district for wrongful death and our firm took the case to trial. In January 2020, a jury leveled an $8 million verdict against the district for negligence due to its failure to maintain the safety and well-being of students participating in the school’s football program. If the school district’s athletic department and coaches recognized the signs of heat exhaustion and took immediate action then this student’s death could have been prevented. Also, if the school had access to AED machines and trained personnel on how to use them, the coaches could have taken additional steps to try to save the boy.

Heat exhaustion can quickly escalate into heatstroke which if left untreated, can lead to organ failure as the body’s core temperature soars above 103 degrees. By that point, the athlete is turning red, exhibiting a rapid and strong pulse and may experience dizziness, nausea, confusion, and a loss of consciousness. It’s critical to recognize these signs below and react quickly.

Symptoms of Heat Exhaustion:

  • Muscle cramping
  • Fatigue
  • Headache 
  • Nausea or vomiting 
  • Dizziness or fainting 

According to the Mayo Clinic, the best way to treat heat exhaustion is by resting in a cool place. Get the overheated person into an air-conditioned building, sit in front of a fan, take a cold shower or find a shady spot. Use ice packs and cooling blankets if available. Make sure they drink cool fluids such as water or sports drinks and loosen clothing. If they don’t begin to feel better within an hour seek immediate medical attention.   

As we endure this wave of unusually hot weather, anyone who exerts themselves outside is at risk of heat exhaustion. But when amateur sports leagues and coaches put the mantra of “win at all costs” ahead of “safety first” young people pay a terrible price. 

Shawn McCann is a trial lawyer and partner at the Los Angeles based law firm BD&J. He specializes in wrongful death and catastrophic injury cases. 

Related Posts

Make Science Your Destination This Summer

April 19, 2024

April 19, 2024

Destination Science is the fun science day camp for curious kids with over 15 STEM activities weekly, three science stations...

Prime Time Sports Camps Coming Soon

April 19, 2024

April 19, 2024

Prime Time Sports Camp has remained a constant in the everchanging camp landscape for over 30 years by following this...

Groundlings Summer Improv Classes Open April 2

April 19, 2024

April 19, 2024

A summer of improvisation is around the corner at The Groundlings. Three months of summer class offerings for teens will...

VNC Fails to Pass Compromise Revisions on Third Try

April 19, 2024

April 19, 2024

Board Composition Will Remain the Same for the 2025 Elections By Nick Antonicello  The April meeting of the Venice Neighborhood...

SMC to Host Applied Music Showcase in May

April 19, 2024

April 19, 2024

Highlighted Students Set to Perform a Variety of Songs, Instrumental Solos, Ensemble Pieces, and Original Compositions Santa Monica College’s Music...

Report: Video Game Mogul Lists Palisades Home for $9.2M

April 18, 2024

April 18, 2024

Built in 2018, the Wood-Shingled Home Spans 7,000 Square Feet across Multiple Levels Dan Houser, the English video game magnate,...

Agreement Between SMMUSD and Malibu Moves District Separation Efforts Forward

April 18, 2024

April 18, 2024

The Agreement Awaits Approval by Both the Malibu City Council and the Smmusd Board of Education The City of Malibu...

(Video) Award-Winning Pianist to Premiere “Rocket Man: A Live Orchestral Experience” in Santa Monica

April 18, 2024

April 18, 2024

Classic Songs Will Include “Crocodile Rock” and “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” @palisadesnews “Rocket Man” is coming soon to Santa Monica...

Legislation Seeks to Place Speed Cameras on Pacific Coast Highway

April 17, 2024

April 17, 2024

The Proposed System Would Work Alongside Radar Feedback Signs, with Violators Facing Fines of up to $500 Malibu officials, led...

Girls Learn Self Defense at Empowerment Summer Camp for Girls

April 17, 2024

April 17, 2024

This summer, girls are invited to explore practical self defense training at SHIELD Women’s Self Defense’s 2024 Empowerment Summer Camp...

Marina del Rey Apartment Shooter Faces 20 Felony Charges, Could Spend Life in Prison

April 17, 2024

April 17, 2024

The Self-Employed Chef Is Being Held in Lieu of Over $5M Bail By Zach Armstrong A man accused of firing over...

Brentwood Art Center: Kids Explore Fundamentals of Drawing, Painting and Mixed Media

April 17, 2024

April 17, 2024

The beloved Brentwood Art Center is hosting summer camps at its new location at Olympic and 17th in Santa Monica. ...

Camp Integem: Explore, Design and Innovate with Future Tech

April 17, 2024

April 17, 2024

This summer, kids are inviting to make magic as they journey into the fun-filled, hands-on world of artificial intelligence (AI),...

(Video) Mayor & Vice Mayor of Santa Monica Speak Out Against Needle Exchange Program

April 16, 2024

April 16, 2024

The Demonstration was Organized by the Santa Monica Coalition @palisadesnews A Santa Monica rally has held against the needle exchange...

Los Angeles County District Attorney Announces Charges In Brutal Venice Sexual Assaults

April 16, 2024

April 16, 2024

Charges Filed Against Suspect in Venice Canals Case by LADA George Gascon Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón has...