Context

Little information exists regarding what exertional heatstroke (EHS) survivors know and believe about EHS best practices. Understanding this would help clinicians focus educational efforts to ensure survival and safe return-to-play following EHS.

Objective

We sought to better understand what EHS survivors knew about EHS seriousness (e.g., lethality, short- and long-term effects), diagnosis and treatment procedures, and recovery. Design: Multi-year, cross-sectional, descriptive design.

Setting

An 11.3-km road race located in the Northeastern United States in August 2022 and 2023.

Patients or Other Participants

Forty-two of 62 runners with EHS (15 women, 27 men; age: 33±15 y; pre-treatment rectal temperature [TREC]: 41.5±0.9°C).

Interventions

Medical professionals evaluated runners requiring medical attention at the finish line. If they observed TREC ≥40°C with concomitant central nervous system dysfunction (CNS) EHS was diagnosed and patients were immersed in a 189.3-L tub filled with ice-water. Before medical discharge, we asked EHS survivors 15 questions about their experience and knowledge of select EHS best practices. Survey items were piloted and validated by experts and laypersons a priori (content validity index ≥0.88 for items and scale).

Main Outcome Measures

Survey responses

Results

Sixty-seven percent (28/42) of patients identified EHS as potentially fatal and 76% (32/42) indicated it negatively affected health. Seventy-nine percent (33/42) correctly identified TREC as the best temperature site to diagnose EHS. Most patients (74%, 31/42) anticipated returning to normal exercise within 1 week post-EHS; 69% (29/42) stated EHS would not impact future race participation. Patients (69%, 29/42) indicated it was important to tell their primary care physician about their EHS.

Conclusions

Our patients were knowledgeable on the potential seriousness and adverse health effects of EHS and the necessity of TREC for diagnosis. However, educational efforts should be directed towards helping patients understand safe recovery and return-to-play timelines following EHS.

This content is only available as a PDF.