It's the start of the fall sports season and the athletes are back in full action. As football, cross country, soccer and field hockey begin, many athletes, who have never followed any kind of strength and conditioning programs, must be trained more carefully in their respective sports.

All sports differ in their speed, endurance, strength, flexibility, balance and coordination. There are many elements an athlete should consider in the choice of their sport, such as muscular strength, endurance, hot weather acclimation, nutrition and diet.

These sports require excessive stress on the body's joints, and especially the feet, which can contribute to related ankle, knee and lower back problems. Such problems occur when playing on natural grass, particularly if the athlete has a flat or low foot, which is mechanically weak. On artificial turf, the most common complaint is turf-toe, which is an acute, traumatic bursitis of the first toe-metatarsal joint associated with tendonitis. Most individuals know their body pain signals; it is important to recognize them.

Heat exhaustion will produce symptoms of dizziness, headache, nausea, rubbery legs, weak but rapid pulse, and possibly fainting. This is the time to stop immediately and find a cool area; drink slowly until the body reaches its equilibrium.

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Heat stroke will cause a sense of confusion, loss or muscle control and unconsciousness. Also an extremely high and dangerous body temperature above 104 degrees may occur. If any of these symptoms are present, keep the victim quiet with the head raised. Sponge them with cold water (rub the body with ice cubes or alcohol swabs) to bring the body temperature down. Most importantly, seek medical attention promptly.

Dr. Robert F. Weiss, a Sport Podiatrist, was a member of the Medical Advisory Committee of the 1984 & 1988 Olympic Marathon Trials.