When Athletes Collapse on a Hot Day

When a healthy athlete collapses during vigorous exercise, it's usually caused by a marked elevation of body temperature, not just by lack of body fluids.

Athletes who collapse while competing in endurance sports usually do so in their finishing sprint, not during the event. During exercise, your heart pumps large amounts of blood from your hot exercising muscles to your skin where heat is dissipated. During vigorous exercise, your heart beats almost at its maximum rate, near 200 beats a minute. Immediately after a well-conditioned athlete stops exercising, his heart slows as much as 100 beats in a minute, markedly reducing blood flow to skin, and his body temperature rises.

Fit athletes can tolerate body temperatures as high as 104 degrees Fahrenheit, but stopping after a vigorous sprint can raise body temperatures above 105, cooking their brains and causing them to pass out. They should be cooled immediately by pouring an fluid on them.

Heat stroke should never happen to you. You can tell when its starting to happen. First your muscles burn and hurt. Then you have difficulty breathing and your breath burns your lungs. By the time that you have brain symptoms, such as dizziness, ringing in your ears, headache, blurring of vision and a feeling of impending doom, it may be too late. You need to be cooled by artificial means immediately.

Checked 8/9/08

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