Newswise — You hear a lot this time of the year about heat-related diseases in athletes. Each year, thousands of student-athletes are affected by heat illness. Some don’t even recover.
While guidelines are available to coaches and trainers to keep their students safe, there is another group of students on the field who are at risk: marching band members.
” You’ve seen all the stories about marching band members suffering heat-related illnesses in the media, but no one has done a thorough study of the frequency of those illnesses and what the students did to address them,” explained Andrew Grundstein, a professor at the University of Georgia’s Franklin College of Arts and Sciences. “There are no national standards for keeping marching band members safe like there are for other active populations.”
Working with Rashawn Merchant, an undergraduate in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences and lead author of the study, Grundstein and his team set out to fill that gap.
Published in the International Journal of Biometeorology, this study analyzed news reports of band members suffering heat-related illnesses from 1990 to 2020 and found almost 400 band students who overexerted themselves and became ill due to heat exposure. 44% was admitted to the hospital after being treated on-site. The other half were discharged the next day. Others suffered heat strokes that required more than one day in hospital.
Most of the 34 heat-related illnesses were caused by high school-level rehearsals and parades. One band event, which drew more than 30 bands from Indiana, resulted in 35 heat -caused illness. 15 of those students who were ill were transported to local hospitals. Another 20 was treated at the event site. Nine ambulances were required to care for all of the students who became ill due to the fact that there aren’t usually on-field medical personnel for band events.
“Think of what they do,” stated Grundstein, the corresponding author of this paper. They go out and often wear heavy wool uniforms. They practice for hours, sometimes outside. They often carry heavy instruments and move around a lot. There are a lot of risk factors that come into play for marching band members that people generally don’t really think about.”
Heat health hazards
At the competition in Indiana, multiple factors made the situation incredibly dangerous. The event began at 1: 30 pm, right when the sun’s rays were at their strongest. The bands performed in full uniforms on artificial turf. Artificial turf is much more hot than grass in summer.
And to top it all, the day’s weather was both hot and humid. It started at 87 degree and rose to 90 degree. Clear skies meant that there was no shade from the heat.
Students spent over an hour in the sun before officials moved the competition indoors.
“Think of the strain it puts on your medical resources, especially in small towns,” Grundstein stated. It’s not Atlanta, where you have probably a lot of these health care resources. You had to call nine ambulances.
Because the study relied on data from news reports, the number of total cases is likely an underestimate.
” This is only a small number of cases but it still indicates a problem,” Grundstein stated. “Athletic trainers and coaches receive training in heat safety. They keep an eye on athletes to ensure they are doing well and can spot potential problems. But the music director of a marching band probably hasn’t had that training.”
To better protect students, schools and organizations can implement similar guidelines to those used in the sports world. It would be a great idea to give students more breaks, encourage them to drink water during practice to keep hydrated, and allow them to wear lighter clothing to practices.
Gradually increasing students’ outdoor practice over several days would allow their bodies to adjust to the heat. This is called acclimatization.
School personnel should consider training on heat-related diseases and how to treat them.
“Heat will become more of a problem in the future. Grundstein stated that we are already witnessing heat waves in the west this year. “It’s been a danger for marching bands members for years, but it’s becoming more dangerous for everyone,” Grundstein said. Our paper can raise awareness about this problem so that officials can come up with better safety policies so that we’re more prepared for the future.”
This release is available online at https://news.uga.edu/marching-band-kids-risk-heat-illness/
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