Sixteen years ago during this same week of August, a horrible thing happened in Northwest Arkansas. A 13-year-old healthy boy finished his first day of football practice for his school’s team and suffered a heat stroke. Kendrick Fincher lived in a drug-induced coma for only 18 days afterward before his internal organs shut down and he passed away.
During that gut-wrenching time, his mother, Rhonda, and his dad, Mike, prayed and hoped that Kendrick could recover. After his death, they formed a foundation in his honor, and now their hope, prayer and their work is all geared toward making sure other families don’t lose a child to the same type of heat-related tragedy.
As we all know, this summer’s heat is intense and brutal. This week, many of our kids may be beginning outdoor sports practices in the days leading up to the start of the school year. Please read the information below from Rhonda Fincher about what mothers, fathers and coaches MUST know about heat-related illnesses and how to prevent them.
Q: As you approach the anniversary of Kendrick’s passing, how has this year’s intense heat wave strengthened your organization’s resolve to spread awareness of heat illness prevention?
A: Last year another child in Arkansas died from heat stroke. Each year there are reports of children experiencing heat stroke and children dying. Heat stroke kills more people than all other weather related deaths combined.
Even though we have been educating children, parents, and athletes for 15 years, it seems like we’ve barely made a dent. Our resolve has always been strong; however, in order for us to do what we need to accomplish, we have put a greater emphasis on fundraising to help us have the funding to further our mission.
Q: What are the most important things mothers can do to help prevent their children from experiencing a serious heat illness?
A: The most critical things for heat illness prevention are: Prehydrate, hydrate, and rehydrate! Parents can help make sure their child is prehydrated before they go to practices and games and that they rehydrate when they are done. They can also make sure they send appropriate drinks with them when they are at practices and games.
Children should have water breaks every 20 to 25 minutes or more frequently depending on the heat and they should have access to water whenever they want. They should also have a sports drink to replace electrolytes if practices are more than 45 minutes.
What should mothers do before allowing their kids to participate in sports practices during high heat?
1) Acclimation: Make sure your child is acclimated to the heat during the time of day the practices will be. It takes two weeks for a child to be fully acclimated to the heat.
2) Hydration: Make sure your child is prehydrated and rehydrates after practice. Check with the coach and make sure there are water breaks and your child has access to water. Send a sports drink with to practices. Athletes should drink 20 ounces for every pound they lose at practices to rehydrate properly.
3) Healthy Choices: Keep healthy food and drink choices in the house to make it easy for your child to drink and eat healthier. Fruits and vegetables will help your child maintain a better hydration level.
4) Speak up and/or watch practices. If there are heat warnings issued (watch the local weather forecast for these heat warnings), that means that there should not be games or practices.
I had a call from a mother outside of NWA this week that had watched a practice and there was no water there. Instead of speaking to the coach, she called me hoping I could notify the school and get changes made — without using her name or any identifying information on her child. Parents need to be courageous on behalf of their children and remember that it is just a game! It will make no difference if your child plays little league or the big leagues if he doesn’t survive the game.
For more information on preventing heat illness and heat stroke, click HERE to visit the Kendrick Fincher Hydration Foundation. Our thanks to Rhonda Fincher for her tireless efforts throughout Northwest Arkansas to educate parents and coaches on the importance of proper hydration.