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Beating the heat

With temperatures expected to shoot up into the 100s this week and the next, local athletes and teams are taking extra precautions to avoid heat-related problems.

Highs may rise to 109 degrees on Friday, according to the National Weather Service, raising concerns in the sports world about heat exhaustion and heatstroke. That day, the Medford Rogues play a single game at 6:35 p.m. and South Medford Colts are scheduled to compete in a pair of contests beginning at 3 p.m. in Medford. Also, the Southern Oregon Wolfpack will be at Ashland for an American Legion doubleheader beginning at 4 p.m.

Heat-related illnesses occur when the body can’t keep itself cool, says Heather Timmons, trauma coordinator at Providence Medford Medical Center. When sweating isn’t enough, the body’s temperature increases and it’s possible to become sick.

Athletes in action are especially at risk, Timmons says. The players — and the fans — should be drinking down loads of water and applying generous amounts of sunscreen with a strong SPF, Timmons suggests.

Around the Rogue Valley, those associated with sports are gearing up for Mother Nature’s fiery sun.

At South Medford High, football freshmen participating in informal training sessions are never far from their gallon of water, says Noah Berman, strength and conditioning teacher at the school. He’s provided the group with instructions for both exercising and dieting so that the teenagers stay healthy in the heat.

“One thing I am always pushing is hydration,” Berman says. “Every athlete that trains with me understands that hydration is an essential key to optimizing performance, especially in hot conditions."

Conditioning routines that challenge athletes’ aerobic and anaerobic thresholds are performed indoors on excessively hot days, says Berman, who has been working alongside freshman assistant Foley Wheeler.

“Our outside training has been modified to be shorter and more efficient,” he says.

In baseball, North Medford Mavericks head coach Brett Wolfe says his team begins practices at 7 a.m. and wraps up around 10:30 a.m. to beat the heat.

If the weather was overwhelming and an afternoon game or doubleheader was on deck, Wolfe says he would likely try to move the contests to the early morning if the opposing team was in favor. His squad is in Eugene this weekend.

Also, Wolfe says a catcher would not likely play both games of a doubleheader during extreme triple-digit weather.

Preparing in advance is important, Wolfe says.

“You just have to make sure the kids drink plenty of water and watch it and pay attention so they don’t get dehydrated,” Wolfe says. “You can’t just drink on that day. You have to drink two, three, four days before.”

At Grants Pass Downs, officials will be focused on keeping jockeys, horses and fans cool, says Marty Hamilton, presiding state steward for the Oregon Racing Commission.

Racing resumes Saturday with gates opening at 11:30 a.m. and post time at 1 p.m.

“I think the most important thing we’re concerned about is to do the best job we can to keep everyone cooled down,” adds Tag Wotherspoon, GPD’s director of communications and marketing. “We’ll be doing everything we can do keep everyone safe, whether it’s horses, jockeys, people involved in racing, the gate crew and the fans.”

Exiting the paddock, horses will be moved along more quickly before and after racing and in the winner’s circle to avoid exposure to the sun, Hamilton says. The hope will be to shave off about four minutes with each race.

Hoses will be available during various junctures during the horses’ travel, with buckets of ice and drinking water readily available.

Jockeys will be encouraged to drink more and the horses will receive extra cool-off sessions, Wotherspoon says.

State veterinarian Stacy Katler will be on site.

“We’ll try to keep them in the shade as long as possible,” Wotherspoon says.

For racing fans, the facility offers some shade in and around the grandstand, Wotherspoon says.

“That’s a nice thing about Grants Pass Downs,” Wotherspoon says. “You don’t have to always be out in the sun.”

In general, spectators should use sunscreen, bring umbrellas and water and avoid sitting directly in the sun’s path, Timmons adds. Wear light-colored, loose-fitting clothing with synthetic fabrics (not cotton) because they will wick moisture away from the skin so cooling evaporation can occur.

Hats are also crucial.

At the Rooster Crow run this weekend in Rogue River, racing begins around 8 a.m. in the 5-kilometer run.

That time has been steady for many years as a proactive measure during a traditionally hot period, coordinator Dave Ehrhardt says. Most entrants will be done within 40 minutes, he says, and water stations will be available during and after the race, along with bananas and muffins.

For those who continue to run, Ehrhardt suggests to play it cautiously. Now isn’t the time to be shooting for a running PR.

“Try to run during cooler times of the day, be hydrated and know your limits,” Ehrhardt says.

If possible, working out inside at a gym may be for the best, Timmons adds.

Those who must be outside, like baseball and softball players, should constantly be monitoring how they’re feeling, Timmons says.

Symptoms of heat exhaustion include heavy sweating, feeling weak or confused, dizziness, nausea, headache and fast heartbeat, Timmons says.

Those who experience those symptoms should find a cool, shady place, lie down and hydrate, Timmons says. Pour a bottle of water over your head or take a cold shower and do not drink alcohol or soda. Sports drinks have their benefits, Timmons adds, but may also contain a large amount of sugar.

Symptoms of heatstroke include a high fever, severe headache, dizziness, flushed skin, a lack of sweating, muscle weakness, nausea, a fast heartbeat and breathing and seizures, Timmons says.

If the symptoms get severe, a call to 911 may be best, she says.

“It’s about paying attention and knowing the signs,” Timmons says.

Reach reporter Dan Jones at 541-776-4499, or email djones@mailtribune.com. Find him online at twitter.com/danjonesmt

Rogue Community College student Hayden Garrett, 22, cools off while playing soccer at U.S. Cellular Community Park in Medford. MAIL TRIBUNE ILLUSTRATION / JAMIE LUSCH