Indiana State University Newsroom

Athletic training students study causes, treatment of heat stroke

September 29, 2010

Sean Dietrich dresses lightly when he's competing. But the Indiana State University track and cross country athlete donned a football helmet and pads for research into heat stroke and related illnesses and how best to treat stricken athletes.

And he didn't work out on a football or practice field where a light fall breeze might have been blowing. He spent 30 minutes on a treadmill and lifting a 35-pound kettle bell inside a heat chamber in the university's Environmental Physiology Laboratory. The temperature was kept between 75 and 85 degrees.

"This protocol is quite intense. It was used in NFL equipment testing. They wanted to see how hot people would get wearing football equipment. We're using the same protocol because we know it gets people hot," said Lindsey Eberman, assistant professor and director of the undergraduate athletic training program in Indiana State's College of Nursing, Health, and Human Services.

His workout complete, Dietrich shed the football gear and was treated to an ice bath where the water temperature was 50 degrees.

"We want to know how fast we can cool their body, but we know that everybody is different so we're looking at whether a body characteristic - like body fat percentage or body type - has an impact on that cooling rate," Eberman said.

Mid-distance runners and football players are the athletes at greatest risk for heat stroke and related illnesses, Eberman said. A football helmet and pads create a "little heat chamber," compounding the risk on the gridiron, she said. Male athletes are also at greater risk than female athletes.

"They tend to not have the ‘stop' mechanism that women have," Eberman said. "When women feel fatigued and know they don't want to continue, they generally stop or decrease the intensity of activity. Male athletes tend not to do that as well."

The goal of Eberman's research is to develop recommendations, based on body type, for athletic trainers and coaches to follow in working to cool an athlete's core body temperature to a safe level. It may take eight to ten minutes in an ice bath, she said.

The research is the latest in a series of studies at Indiana State aimed at helping athletes deal with heat-related stress. Others have included assessments of the dehydration levels of athletes at the collegiate and professional levels and factors that promote good hydration practices.

Students in ISU's nationally recognized athletic training program work alongside faculty members in the research, something that especially benefits undergraduate students, Eberman said.

story photo"Although they may not participate in developing the research design or reading all the literature, we know they can gain value from the research if they can see it being done. They're able to identify how this would actually impact them as a clinician," she said.
For Janie Kelly, a senior from Michigantown, the experience will help lay the groundwork for the next stage in her education.

"I want to go to graduate school and need to get a feel for research. This is evidence-based medicine. This study is going to help a lot of people and I'll be able to use the experience when I'm out there on my own," Kelly said.
But there's an even more important reason for Indiana State researchers - faculty and students - to continue the search for answers intro the contributing factors and treatment of heat stroke.

"It's important to know these things because we know that the information can help us save lives," Eberman said.

Photos: - Indiana State University student-athlete Sean Dietrich runs on a treadmill inside a heat chamber and is monitored by athletic training major Janie Kelly for research into the contributing factors and treatment methods of heat stress and related illnesses. (ISU/Kara Berchem) - Lindsey Eberman, director of undergraduate athletic training at Indiana State University, monitors student-athlete Sean Dietrich's body temperature as he enters an ice bath. Athletic training majors Janie Kelly (seated) and Kiersten Young (standing) assisted in the research. (ISU/Kara Berchem)

Contact: Lindsey Eberman, assistant professor and director, undergraduate athletic training program, College of Nursing, Health, and Human Services, Indiana State University, 812-237-7694 or

Writer: Dave Taylor, media relations director, office of Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University, 812-237-3743 or