As the heat and humidity of summer stretch into fall, Akron Children’s athletic trainers continue to see athletes suffer with heat-related illnesses. Thanks to donor and community support, all of the nearly 30 school districts our trainers serve are equipped to treat the most serious of these illnesses – heat stroke.
“What we know through research and experts in the field is that when athletes overheat, cooling down body temperature is critically important,” said Sheila Schrack, AT, ATC, lead athletic trainer at Akron Children’s Hospital. “Calling 911 and transporting to the ER used to be the gold standard, but now taking action to cool first, transport second can help prevent serious affects of heat stroke like organ failure and even death.”
Although heat stroke can happen in cooler temperatures, it typically occurs in warm weather during high intensity sports like cross country and soccer or with equipment-wearing sports like football. While heatstroke is preventable, sometimes signs like aggressiveness, irritability or confusion can go unnoticed and quickly turn into a medical emergency.
“The key for our trainers is getting that core temperature down right away because air conditioning in the squad or IVs at the hospital aren’t going to do it,” added Sheila. “We need to act within the first 30 minutes from the time of the incident.”
The best cooling method is to immediately immerse the athlete in a tub of cold water, but that wasn’t an option at some schools.
“When we looked at the schools we serve, we found 4 didn’t have access to a tub or other cooling method onsite,” said Sheila. “We knew we needed to find something to fill this gap, but we knew investing in large tanks wasn’t an ideal option.”
Through peer recommendations, Sheila got in touch with a local business, Polar Products. The company’s Polar Life Pod® is a cold water immersion system that provides rapid on-site cooling using a collapsible, compact and portable vinyl-like bag or pod. The athlete is placed inside the pod and then 40-60 gallons of water can be added to help cool the athlete before an ambulance arrives.
Donor and community support
Akron Children’s Sports Medicine department donated Polar Life Pods to Liberty, Campbell and Lowellville school districts in the Mahoning Valley, along with Field Local Schools in Portage County. The donation was made possible through the Dr. Zouhair Yassine Orthopedics and Sports Medicine Fund, established by Leila Vespoli and her husband Anthony to honor Leila’s late father. The fund honors Dr. Yassine’s work and ensures his legacy continues to serve the community by helping those impacted with orthopedic or sports-related injuries or disorders.
“Thanks to the generosity of Leila and Anthony Vespoli and Polar Products, we were able to purchase 4 pods to ensure each school we serve is equipped to treat heat-illnesses,” said Sheila. “We’re extremely grateful for the kindness of donors and community partners who help us make sure we have what we need to care for kids in our communities.”
To learn more about how Akron Children’s athletic trainers work with local school districts, contact Sports Medicine at 330-543-8260.