Drew Brees on raising awareness of Exertional Heat Stroke (EHS), the importance of youth sports

(Photo: USA TODAY Sports)

Drew Brees on raising awareness of Exertional Heat Stroke (EHS), the importance of youth sports

Outside The Box

Drew Brees on raising awareness of Exertional Heat Stroke (EHS), the importance of youth sports

Dec 28, 2014; Tampa, FL, USA; New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (Photo: Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports)

In recent years there has been constant news of heat stroke and heat-related incidents that emerge at the onset of summer training for football season. These incidents have sparked a certain amount of recognition that heat stroke is a significant threat, but not nearly enough.

That’s where Drew Brees comes in. The New Orleans Saints All-Pro quarterback has teamed up with Eagle Pharmaceuticals in a program called The Heat Factor, which aims to increase awareness and provide helpful instructions about how to battle EHS, in both video and print form. More information can be found at theheatfactor.com.

“I was a young athlete in Austin, Texas, where it’s hot and humid, and being a professional athlete you have a chance to be around a lot of incidents when you’re in those type of conditions and you recognize potential EHS in other teammates,” Brees told USA TODAY Sports. “I’m very aware of it, but the research we’ve done shows that 70 percent of parents wouldn’t recognize it. I also have four kids, and as a parent, it’s something we all have to be very aware of.”

Part of the reason for a general lack of awareness of EHS is the similarities it shows to a traditional concussion diagnosis. Those who suffer from an EHS incident often appear disoriented, confused and stumble around, which is precisely the way many athletes present in the immediate aftermath of a concussion.

For Brees, protecting young athletes goes back to his own youth, where he spent most of his time playing sports on teams and with his younger brother, Reid Brees (who later became a baseball player at Baylor). A breakout star quarterback at Westlake, Brees suffered a torn ACL in his junior season that required extensive rehabilitation. The passer feared for his football future, but made a full recovery and led his team to a state title as a senior.

New Orleans Saints Quarterback Drew Brees signs autographs on items from helmets to footballs and jerseys. (Photo: Jackson Clarion Ledger)

That incident helped inspire Brees when he suffered a significant shoulder injury early in his career in San Diego, and now has helped motivate him to ensure others don’t face similar difficulty following an EHS incident.

“Any time you feel like something is being taken away from you you face that adversity,” Brees said. “I thought my football career was going to be affected with my ACL tear, and then years later I thought my career was over in the NFL with my shoulder injury. I had to work through both of those, and it builds character.

“I hope my kids can love sports as much as I did. Sports are great for kids, and there’s a lot of life lessons to be learned from team sports. It gives kids confidence and self esteem, and it teaches about team work and work ethic. And sports are things you can do together, for a long time as a family together. I hope that’s the case, but I’ll never push them to play certain sports. But I will teach them that there’s a level of commitment required when you choose to play a certain sport.”

As a professional athlete, Brees has a commitment to both his football career and charitable work that he leads via his eponymous Brees Dream Foundation, which focuses on improving the life of children, whether they suffer from juvenile cancer or need rebuilt facilities and mentorship (they have a forthcoming Brees Top Golf Challenge in Las Vegas, which the Saints star hopes will fund a number of initiatives in the year ahead).

And, critically, he has made a commitment to raising the awareness of the threat of EHS nationwide, so that more parents, athletic trainers and officials and even medical professionals will be prepared to diagnose and treat EHS when it arises.

“I think the goal is to get to where EHS is recognized universally,” Brees said. “Me and my brother were sports junkies, and that’s all we wanted to do. Be outdoors, pitch and catch with each other.

“Temperatures will be hot as kids get out of school and begin outdoor activities. The more educated that we can be as parents, teachers, coaches and as the athletes themselves, the better chance we have of avoiding an EHS type of emergency.”

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