The Epidemiology and Management of Exertional Heat Illnesses in High School Sports During the 2012/2013–2016/2017 Academic Years

in Journal of Sport Rehabilitation
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Context: Recent data on exertional heat illness (EHI) in high school sports are limited yet warranted to identify specific settings with the highest risk of EHI. Objective: To describe the epidemiology of EHI in high school sports during the 2012/2013–2016/2017 academic years. Design: Descriptive epidemiology study. Setting: Aggregate injury and exposure data collected from athletic trainers working in high school sports in the United States. Patients or Other Participants: High school athletes during the 2012/2013–2016/2017 academic years. Intervention: High School Reporting Information Online surveillance system data from the 2012/2013–2016/2017 academic years were analyzed. Main Outcome Measures: EHI counts, rates per 10,000 athlete exposures (AEs), and distributions were examined by sport, event type, and US census region. EHI management strategies provided by athletic trainers were analyzed. Injury rate ratios with 95% confidence intervals (CIs) compared EHI rates. Results: Overall, 300 EHIs were reported for an overall rate of 0.13/10,000 AE (95% CI, 0.11 to 0.14). Of these, 44.3% occurred in American football preseason practices; 20.7% occurred in American football preseason practices with a registered air temperature ≥90°F and ≥1 hour into practice. The EHI rate was higher in American football than all other sports (0.52 vs 0.04/10,000 AE; injury rate ratio = 11.87; 95% CI, 9.22 to 15.27). However, girls’ cross-country had the highest competition EHI rate (1.18/10,000 AE). The EHI rate was higher in the South US census region than all other US census regions (0.23 vs 0.08/10,000 AE; injury rate ratio = 2.96; 95% CI, 2.35 to 3.74). Common EHI management strategies included having medical staff on-site at the onset of EHI (92.7%), removing athlete from play (85.0%), and giving athlete fluids via the mouth (77.7%). Conclusions: American football continues to have the highest overall EHI rate although the high competition EHI rate in girls’ cross-country merits additional examination. Regional differences in EHI incidence, coupled with sport-specific variations in management, may highlight the need for region- and sport-specific EHI prevention guidelines.

Kerr is with the Department of Exercise and Sport Science, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC. Yeargin and Hirschhorn are with the Department of Exercise Science, University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC. Hosokawa is with the College of Sport and Health Science, Ritsumeikan University, Kusatsu, Shiga, Japan. Pierpoint is with the Department of Epidemiology, Colorado School of Public Health, Aurora, CO. Casa is with the Department of Kinesiology, Korey Stringer Institute, University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT.

Kerr (zkerr@email.unc.edu) is corresponding author.
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