HENDRICKS COUNTY, Ind. — It’s game on for many Hoosier athletes as youth sports leagues continue a busy summer season.
For the Avon Junior Athletic Association, all-star season is now in full swing.
“It feels really special because there’s only one all-star team in Avon,” said Devyn, 10, player.
“I like all the action that’s in it and how much stuff we get to do,” said Charlotte, 9, player.
Devyn and Charlotte are part of the AJAA’s all-star team, which consists of the “best of the best” within their league. While the team is always up for a challenge, they’re facing some tough competition.
As the heatwave continues in Indiana, the game plan is keeping your cool.
“When athletes get exposed to heat, it takes about 14 days to be fully acclimatized to the heat,” said Indianapolis EMS Medical Director Mark Liao. “When a sudden heat wave happens, you don’t have that opportunity to train up, and many people are behind in terms of hydration and things like that.”
Liao said the lack of preparation can leave room for more risks of heat-related issues.
“Heat injuries can start with heat cramps, whether it’s painful spasming of large muscles, that typically suggests that someone is maybe low on electrolytes or fluid,” Liao said. “It can then progress, or even just start, with heat exhaustion, where people feel unwell, nauseous.”
“The extreme situation is heat stroke,” he added. “That is when the body is so hot it cannot compensate any longer, and you have signs of end organ damage, such as the brain, the kidneys or even the heart.”
Because young children are among the most vulnerable when it comes to the impacts of extreme heat, Liao said it’s important for families to know the measures and protocols in place for their child’s team or league.
At AJAA, players have access to cooling stations and frequent water breaks.
During softball and baseball, Facilities Manager Mike Clark says catchers are often changed out so they can get out of their gear and take breaks.
“They’re putting 15 to 20 pounds of equipment on. They’re wearing helmets and face masks,” Clark said. “Whenever you have that type of equipment on you, your body is not going to perspire as much. You’re going to get a lot hotter, a lot quicker.”
Clark said AJAA also has an AED on site for emergencies and coaches and staff are properly trained in spotting heat-related illnesses and other general safety needs.
Clark said it’s important staff is properly trained as kids may not always be vocal in saying they need breaks or something is wrong.
“The kids, I think, they’re extremely resilient,” he said. “That’s why it’s so important for us to take heed and make sure that we can tell them to slow down.”
Along with those safety measures, Clark said they are constantly monitoring the weather and making adjustments as needed to keep teams safe.
“When it gets between 80 to 100 degree mark, we actually reach out to the coaches and commissioners with said sport, we tell them to keep a close eye on the kids, keep them hydrated,” he said.
“Anything over 100, it’s kind of a strange one,” he added. “It can be 100 degrees, it could be overcast with a nice breeze. So we kind of make that call and can maybe stretch it out, or we may just delay the games an hour or two so it does cool off a little bit more.”
“Once it gets to that 102, 103 and there’s no breeze, and it’s just beating down… We just go ahead and cancel everything out for the evening,” he said. “At that point in time, I don’t think anybody wants to play in heats like that.”
For players, like Devyn, who already has winning on her mind, she’s hopeful to beat the heat sooner than later.
“I kind of want it to be over with by at least tomorrow because we have a tournament on Saturday and Sunday,” she said. “I do want to play, but it’s going to be like really, really hot.”