University of South Carolina

Beat the heat: Athletic training prof offers hydration tips

By Megan Sexton,, 803-777-1421

Susan Yeargin started her master’s program in exercise science at the University of Florida in 2001, the day after freshman football player Eraste Autin died from heat stroke following a conditioning workout.

She watched the sports medicine team struggle as members dealt with the loss of an athlete. And she vowed to learn more about heat and exercise, hoping for a way to prevent another athlete dying from heat stroke.

“I never wanted to see another medical team or family have to deal with the death of an athlete from heat stroke,” Yeargin said.

Eleven years later, she has just arrived at the University of South Carolina from Indiana State University. Her credentials include a doctorate in exercise physiology from the University of Connecticut, where she worked with Douglas Casa, one of the country’s most prominent heat researchers. As assistant professor of athletic training in USC’s College of Education, Yeargin’s research focuses on child and adolescent hydration behaviors and heat illness.

“Young athletes are still shaping their hydration habits, and those habits can be influenced by the people around them. I want to understand who, what and why certain factors influence their hydration behaviors,” she said.

Some of what she’s learned through her work thus far:

  • Between 50 and 75 percent of children are dehydrated even before they arrive at athletic camps and sports practices. Children are not replacing the fluids they need after practice, so they often show up the next day still dehydrated.
  • The most efficient way children take in liquids is through a cup. However, cups are hard to refill quickly. Therefore, water bottles are better for children to drink from since they are efficient and easy to keep filled. But water fountains are the worst; children rarely drink as much as they need from a fountain.
  • Between 50 and 75 percent of football players – from high school to professionals – show up to preseason practices already dehydrated.
  • The best way to optimize hydration while being active is to have personal water bottles. Active individuals who have to share water bottles drink less than those who have their own.

With heat-related deaths for high school and college athletes on the rise across the United States, Yeargin’s work in the athletic training program will have a huge impact in both the classroom and the playing fields around the Midlands, said Jim Mensch, director of USC’s athletic training education program.

“She will have a big impact in the classroom, educating and preparing future athletic trainers and sports medicine professionals to deal with heat-related issues. And her expertise in the area of heat and hydration will be used to help educate athletes, coaches and administrators on the dangers associated with heat illness,” Mensch said.

“Because heat-related issues are so prevalent in South Carolina and the Columbia area, Susan’s research and experiences on national boards such as the task force on secondary school heat acclimatization guidelines and Korey Stringer Institute medical board will have a direct benefit to the high school and collegiate athletes in our state.”

By Office of Media Relations

Posted: 08/06/12 @ 12:00 AM | Updated: 08/31/12 @ 2:20 PM | Permalink

Tips for dealing with and preventing heat illness in kids

  • Avoid exercising between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m.
  • Avoid exercising when a heat alert or advisory has been issued
  • Stay hydrated
  • Get plenty of sleep and sleep in an air conditioned room
  • Limit exercise in the heat of the day following a long day of heat exposure (i.e., all day at a theme park or pool)
  • Decrease exercise intensity
  • Work with coaches before practice begins to determine time, length, intensity and breaks
  • Do a  WUT (weight loss, urine color and thirst) analysis. Athletes should weigh before and after working out. A weight loss of 2.2 pounds is equal to 1 liter. Urine should be pale yellow (not the color of Mountain Dew or dark apple juice). Thirst is not the best indicator, but is one part of the equation.



What's next?

  • Along with educating athletes, coaches and trainers, Susan Yeargin wants to continue looking at practical and applicable research. Some areas she is interested in exploring:
  • The best cooling methods to treat heat stroke.
  • Updating research on fluid preferences of children, including chocolate milk
  • Determining how parents and coaches influence athlete hydration and heat illness factors



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