SCS Home Study Course: Chapter 5

Environmental Conditions in Athletics

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J. Allen Hardin, ATC, PT, MS, SCS, LAT, CSCS

Co-Director of Athletic Training / Sports Medicine

The University of Texas at Austin

Department of Intercollegiate Athletics, Austin, Texas



1. Understand the severity of injuries related to various environmental conditions.

2. List both environmental and non-environmental risk factors for cold injuries.

3. Recognize signs and symptoms of exposure-related cold injuries. 

4. Understand how a sports physical therapist can prevent cold injuries.

5. Recognize signs and symptoms of exertional heat illness.

6. Explain reasons for high altitude illness.



I.      Introduction

II.     Injury from Cold Exposure

III.    Physiological Responses to Cold Exposure Thermoregulation: Mechanisms of Heat Loss

IV.    Non-environmental Risk Factors for Cold Injuries

V.     Environmental Risk Factors for Cold Injuries

VI.   Exposure-Related Cold Injuries

        a. Hypothermia

        b. Frostbite and frostnip

        c. Chilblain (Pernio)

VII.  Prevention of Injuries from Cold Exposure

VIII. Exertional Heat Illness

        a. Heat exposure

        b. Core temperature responses to exertional heat stress

        c. Cardiovascular responses to exertional heat stress

IX.   Factors Associated With Heat Intolerance

        a. Acclimatization

        b. Dehydration

        c. Level of fitness

           i.   Age-related factors

           ii.  Gender

           iii. Clothing

           iv. Heat exposure

           v.  Dietary supplements

X.    Exertional Heat Illnesses

        a. Heat cramps

        b. Heat syncope

        c. Heat exhaustion

        d. Exertional heat stroke

XI.   Prevention of Exertional Heat Illness

XII.  Exercise in High-Altitude Environments

        a. Environmental hypoxia

        b. Acclimatization to high altitude

        c. Failure of acclimatization: high-altitude illness and over-training

           i.   Acute high-altitude illness

           ii.  Over-training

XIII. Lightning Safety

        a. Lightning Injuries

        b. Education and Prevention

XIV.  Special Considerations

        a. Athlete with sickle cell trait: environmental

        b. Implications

XV.  Hydration

        a. Assessment of hydration status

        b. Rehydration and exercise

XVI. Summary

The completion of this course does not guarantee that the purchaser will pass the SCS examination.