Playing in extreme heat

taylormcc

New User
I wanted to share my experience and what three days in the hospital taught me. I was playing in a tournament two weeks ago here in Texas and it was hot, Texas hot. I played a morning match that wasn't too bad, but then I had to play an afternoon match and it was downright brutal. The on-court temperature was 108 with 45% humidity, the heat index was 135+ (BTW, for those that don't buy in to heat index, it matters as it pertains to the bodies ability to cool itself, so pay attention to it. Anything over 110 is dangerous). The match lasted about 1:45 and by the last couple of games, my calves began to cramp. Within 10 minutes post match the cramps had become severe and within 20 minutes I was on the ground in excruciating pain. All of the muscles in both legs were locked in horrific cramps. The tournament director called 911 because my body temperature was really high despite ice bags all over my body. The EMTs showed up and put an IV in me and gave me valium to calm me down. By the time they got to the ER my cramps had started to subside. They needed a urine sample from me (please excuse the graphic nature of this part) but it was about the color of coffee, no exaggeration.

It turns out that when you go into severe dehydration and heat exhaustion, your muscles begin secreting large amounts of creatinine, the waste product of creatine. This stuff gets into you blood stream and when it reaches your kidneys, they can't handle it. The kidneys stop functioning. I was down to 10% kidney function, hence 3 days in the hospital with constant IVs in me trying to my body re-hydrated and my kidneys back to normal. Thankfully the fast acting tourny director called 911 and I am back to normal save the lost days in the hospital. So, what did I learn from this:

1) Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Water alone can work, but sports drinks are better. A 50/50 mix works as well. When we sweat, the body loses huge amounts of sodium. Without this salt, the muscles can not effectively conduct the electrical impulses that make them work. Cramps ensue. Yes, things like bananas can help a little, but the body actually loses very little potassium during perspiration. It's the sodium that the body needs to replenish.

2) Drink plenty of sports drink before a match, especially if you are playing more than one match in a day. During change overs, drink at least 8 oz. of water (or alternate sports drinks). That should be enough to replace the perspiration. I was who always believed that water alone was enough, and technically, it is. However, according to my doctors, drinks like gatorade are more effective because they do contain high amounts of sodium, plus magnesium and potassium.

3) If you notice that you have stopped sweating and/or urinating, STOP IMMEDIATELY! Get fluids into your body like now.

4) Bring and umbrella or shaded chair to keep you out of the sun during change overs. Also keep an ice chest with an ice bag or ice towel of sorts to place on the back of the neck. This can obviously help keep you body temperature down a bit.

5) Pre-match carbohydrate/glycogen loading with sports drinks or gels an hour or so before a match helps keep your muscles stocked with a ready supply of fuel so they don't start secreting the creatinine under the extreme duress of playing hard in 100+ degree heat.

6) Avoid diuretics such as caffeine on match day. Wear lose fitting, light colored clothing, and a hat.

If you are healthy, you can perform in the extreme heat as long as proper precautions are taken. It was a very expensive and scary lesson I learned. Stay safe out there. Hopefully Fall gets here eventually!
 
Thank you for that story.

Athletes are dropping at high rates this summer because of lacking hydration. You are lucky that you are still around.
 

hescobal

Rookie
wow, that sounds really scary, but I'm glad you're ok. Also thanks for sharing the great info.

I should have probably took some of these precautions yesterday as i noticed I started to get a little dizzy and was starting to sweat less.
 

jswinf

Professional
A valuable story. Many of us have probably "skated up to the line" of heat exhaustion and escaped with fairly mild discomfort. We need to know what can happen if we cross the line.

I think your list of tips should add "Don't play in dangerous conditions." You'd think a tournament would have a policy on when play should be postponed, just like high school football programs seem to need a policy to try to avoid having one or 2 young athletes dying each summer.
 

acehigh

Rookie
In hot weather I would wear pure white clothings. I would wet my hair and cap. I would also wipe myself down with a wet towle before going on court. Basically, I'm half wet before I start playing. Your body cool itself by sweating, so giving it a head start. Any little thing to gain an advantage over your opponient.
 

taylormcc

New User
Not sure of the effect of valium, I'd had the IV in for about 15 minutes before they gave it to me.

@andfor, sadly, it was all for naught, I lost 7-6 (13-11), 6-4. Brutal tiebreaker.

@jswinf, I agree, maybe once the temperature reaches certain points, maybe we should restrict play to morning and evening hours. The fact that it was my second match had a lot to do with it as even though it wasn't as hot in my first match and I won it fairly quickly, I still sweated a LOT as it was about 90 degrees and humid.

@acehigh, I like that advice, give the body a head start on the cooling!

Thanks for the well wishes. Seriously, it is dangerous out there in a lot of the country. This is the worst summer we've had in Texas in a looonnnggg time, maybe ever.
 

ttbrowne

Hall of Fame
I agree with you all except for the "sports drink are better". You should have been drinking water 4 hours before your match. It was over 125 on our court last week. I drank 4 3 & 1/2 cups of water in that period. Not a lot but sufficient. I did fine.
Sports drinks have their place but they are not better than water.
 

Uvijek Argen

Semi-Pro
Glad that you are OK taylormcc. I did have myself a close encounter a few years ago, completely discompose from the heat almost vomit and have diarrhea in the same time.

For those that think sport drink is enough, you need to take sips of each (water and sport drinks).

taylormcc: I do buy in the bodybuilder website Cytomax(tropical fruit)(many players in the pro tour are drinking it now) which has like gatorade same ingredients plus vitamin C, magnesium, and doesnt have that strong sodium feel gatorade leaves you in the tongue.

Once again glad everything is fine now, and wondering if the tournament director learn his lesson too, to not put players in risk during high temperatures.
 

blakesq

Hall of Fame
Taylor, thanks for the story. I am curious, how much fluid did you drink before and during your match?


I wanted to share my experience and what three days in the hospital taught me. I was playing in a tournament two weeks ago here in Texas and it was hot, Texas hot. I played a morning match that wasn't too bad, but then I had to play an afternoon match and it was downright brutal. The on-court temperature was 108 with 45% humidity, the heat index was 135+ (BTW, for those that don't buy in to heat index, it matters as it pertains to the bodies ability to cool itself, so pay attention to it. Anything over 110 is dangerous). The match lasted about 1:45 and by the last couple of games, my calves began to cramp. Within 10 minutes post match the cramps had become severe and within 20 minutes I was on the ground in excruciating pain. All of the muscles in both legs were locked in horrific cramps. The tournament director called 911 because my body temperature was really high despite ice bags all over my body. The EMTs showed up and put an IV in me and gave me valium to calm me down. By the time they got to the ER my cramps had started to subside. They needed a urine sample from me (please excuse the graphic nature of this part) but it was about the color of coffee, no exaggeration.

It turns out that when you go into severe dehydration and heat exhaustion, your muscles begin secreting large amounts of creatinine, the waste product of creatine. This stuff gets into you blood stream and when it reaches your kidneys, they can't handle it. The kidneys stop functioning. I was down to 10% kidney function, hence 3 days in the hospital with constant IVs in me trying to my body re-hydrated and my kidneys back to normal. Thankfully the fast acting tourny director called 911 and I am back to normal save the lost days in the hospital. So, what did I learn from this:

1) Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Water alone can work, but sports drinks are better. A 50/50 mix works as well. When we sweat, the body loses huge amounts of sodium. Without this salt, the muscles can not effectively conduct the electrical impulses that make them work. Cramps ensue. Yes, things like bananas can help a little, but the body actually loses very little potassium during perspiration. It's the sodium that the body needs to replenish.

2) Drink plenty of sports drink before a match, especially if you are playing more than one match in a day. During change overs, drink at least 8 oz. of water (or alternate sports drinks). That should be enough to replace the perspiration. I was who always believed that water alone was enough, and technically, it is. However, according to my doctors, drinks like gatorade are more effective because they do contain high amounts of sodium, plus magnesium and potassium.

3) If you notice that you have stopped sweating and/or urinating, STOP IMMEDIATELY! Get fluids into your body like now.

4) Bring and umbrella or shaded chair to keep you out of the sun during change overs. Also keep an ice chest with an ice bag or ice towel of sorts to place on the back of the neck. This can obviously help keep you body temperature down a bit.

5) Pre-match carbohydrate/glycogen loading with sports drinks or gels an hour or so before a match helps keep your muscles stocked with a ready supply of fuel so they don't start secreting the creatinine under the extreme duress of playing hard in 100+ degree heat.

6) Avoid diuretics such as caffeine on match day. Wear lose fitting, light colored clothing, and a hat.

If you are healthy, you can perform in the extreme heat as long as proper precautions are taken. It was a very expensive and scary lesson I learned. Stay safe out there. Hopefully Fall gets here eventually!
 

taylormcc

New User
@blakesq - I drank a quite a bit and I continued to drink during the match. The fact that it was my second match and that I had sweated so much in my first match made it really difficult to get enough into my body.

@ ttbrowne - Respectfully, I must disagree, and so do the doctors. When you are exerting yourself in an extreme manner and sweating so much, you have to replenish the sodium that you are losing. The sodium (salt) allows your muscles to effectively conduct the electrical impulses that make them work. Without this, they spasm/cramp. They constantly asked if I felt the cramps climbing into my torso because once that happens, you are at extreme risk to go into cardiac arrest. Essentially, the heart cramps. Now, in many cases, water is adequate (I used to believe that it was always adequate until this instance) but in these types of dangerous heat and exertion, sports drink help.

@Ujivek - I will definitely check that out as I have another tournament next weekend and it'll be a scorcher again, hopefully not nearly as hot though!
 

mikeler

Moderator
I need a sports drink in the hot weather here in Florida. Otherwise I almost always cramp up during or after the match.
 

wrxinsc

Professional
This is the point that isn't made enough. You must get hydrated BEFORE you go out to play.

^ This - hours and hours before.

And pedialyte before, during, and after a match is your friend. Playing tournaments in the summer heat in the south is NO joke. There is a reason most large tourneys down here have health care providers on site.

When you have several matches in a day you also must take sports drinks. Just the water will not do it.

Thanks for calling attention to this - but so sorry you had to go through it. Not anything to play with for sure. Glad you are OK!
 

Big_Dangerous

Talk Tennis Guru
I can say I've been dehydrated, but never to that point. Although I don't tend to take care of myself in terms of hydrating properly for matches, so that's definitely something I need to work on.
 

MrCLEAN

Rookie
Sounds like the Fort Worth Major Zone!

Glad I skipped it.

I posted a week or so ago about this same thing, though more of a preventative thing. Most of the things I do were learned from experience, and can't think of anything significantly different from what you have stated.

The 2 things I'd emphasize is the hydration, and the ice packs.
I fully hydrate the day before, it may not be necessary to do it that early, but it works for me. Also, I have a separate cooler w/ icewater and a washcloth or bandana in it, and I wipe down my face, neck, head, arms, legs, and whatever else I can reach on the changeovers, and it REALLY helps keep your body temp down. I've never broken down like you did in a tournament, but I've had to stop at least once about 5 years ago after a set due to dehydtration. I'd lost the first, and knew there was no way I was going to last 3 sets, so I bailed after the first set. I've played a few guys that faded out right in front of me, seeing stars, staggering around, ect. Scary stuff.
Glad you're ok!
 

Z-Man

Professional
Thanks for posting. It's just not worth it to push yourself to the point of endangering your health. I felt like throwing up on the first service game of a league match today. It was brutally hot (high 90s), and it rained this morning, so the humidity was very high. One of our opponents hit the wall and had to retire in the second set.
 
Top