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Events focus on heat-related illnesses

It’s easy to forget during the changing days of summer in Western New York that overexertion during the hottest times can ratchet up the risk of heat stroke and related illnesses.

“Our climate changes are pretty drastic. You will have a day where it’s 65 degrees and tomorrow it’ll be 90 and kids will be going to play, going to practice, and their bodies haven’t had the time to acclimate to the hot weather,” said Jami Radtke, head of the Foundation for Orthopaedic Research and Continuing Education, or FORCE.

Dr. Paul Patterson, president of the board at Excelsior Orthopaedics, established FORCE in 2006 to enhance research and education when it comes to treatment and prevention of orthopedic and sports injuries, including heat illnesses. The foundation looks to make a big splash next week with two events:

• The first, a free symposium on exertional heat illness prevention and treatment, takes place at 6 p.m. Wednesday at Excelsior Orthopaedics, 3925 Sheridan Drive, Amherst. Rebecca Stearns, director of education with the Korey Stringer Institute, will be among the speakers. Stringer, a Minnesota Vikings offensive tackle, died in August 2001 from a heat-related illness after a preseason practice. Athletic directors, trainers, coaches, teachers and parents are among those encouraged to attend; call 250-6494 to register.

• The Inaugural Soaker 7.7K Run/Walk will start at 7 p.m. Thursday at the NFTA Boat Harbor in Buffalo. Register at the walk/run section of the FORCE website at; cost is $35.

“The biggest thing is the education, the awareness,” said Mark Wolbert, director of business development for Excelsior. “We don’t think about it as much here, but it happens all the time around us. It’s a very preventable illness that, unfortunately, happens quickly. If you never heard about it and don’t know what to do when it does happen, it can be tragic.”

The race and an indiegogo online effort, which can be reached through the FORCE website, are designed to raise awareness about the dangers of heat-related illness, as well as equip more than 40 high school athletic facilities in Erie and Cattaraugus counties with either hydration stations or cooling vests. The vests, made by Coolture in Buffalo, will be demonstrated at the run/walk, Radtke said.

Buffalo firefighters will be stationed along the race course to help underline the importance of good hydration on hot days, and participants and spectators alike are encouraged to come out with Super Soaker squirt guns, buckets of water or water balloons.

“You’re going to get wet in this race,” Wolbert said.


See related story, Page 10