Heat illness is the third leading cause of death in athletics and a leading cause of morbidity and mortality in exercising athletes. Once faced with a case of heat related illness, severe or mild, the health care professional is often faced with the question of when to reactivate the athlete for competitive sport. Resuming activity without modifying risk factors could lead to recurrence of heat related illness of similar or greater severity. Also, having had heat illness in and of itself may be a risk factor for future heat related illness. The decision to return the athlete and the process of risk reduction is complex and requires input from all of the components of the team. Involving the entire sports medicine team often allows for the safest, most successful return to play strategy. Care must be taken once the athlete does begin to return to activity to allow for re-acclimatization to exercise in the heat prior to resumption particularly following a long convalescent period after more severe heat related illness.
Eric Coris is with the Division of Sports Medicine, Stephen Walz is with the Department of Athletics, Jeff Konin is with the Department of Orthopedics, and Michele Pescasio is with the Division of Sports Medicine, all at The University of South Florida in Tampa. E-mail: email@example.com.