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Susan Yeargin (Athletic Trainer): Preventing Heat Illness Is Her Passion

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In recognition of April as National Youth Sports Safety Month, MomsTeam asked 30 experts to write a blog answering two questions: first, how or why did they get into their field, and second, how have they made a difference in the life of a youth athlete in the past year.

Today, we hear once again from Susan Yeargin, a certified athletic trainer, MomsTeam's hydration expert, Assistant Professor in the Physical Education and Athletic Training Department at the University of South Carolina, and new mom!

By Susan Yeargin, PhD, ATC

Why did I get into my field?

I grew up in Virginia, where both heat and youth sports were plentiful.  My father used to take me to watch women's soccer games at Mary Washington College.  A family friend was their athletic trainer, and I often watched him help athletes with injuries on the field.  When I matriculated at James Madison University, I declared Athletic Training as my major as a freshman and have never looked back. Susan Yeargin, PhD, ATC

I got into the field of heat and hydration research at the University of Florida while studying for my Master's.  UF had a freshman football player, Eraste Autin, collapse from heat stroke after a conditioning practice.  I was in the athletic training room when the staff received the phone call that Eraste had passed away.  I never wanted to see another medical team or family have to deal with the death of an athlete from exertional heat stroke.

Since then, I have been involved in numerous research studies examining how to prevent and treat heat stroke.  After receiving my PhD at the University of Connecticut, I've found myself drawn to studying the hydration habits of youth athletes.  Young athletes are still shaping their hydration habits, which can be influenced by those surrounding them in sport.  I want to understand, who, what, and why certain factors influence their hydration behaviors. My research in this area gives me the chance to work with youth athletes and their parents, which I find very rewarding. 

How have I made a difference in an athlete's life?

Instead of how I have made a difference in an athlete's life, I want to tell a story about how an athlete made a difference in my life.  Although it happened while I was still in graduate school, it's still vivid in my memory, and influences my research to this day. 

It happened during two-a-day football practices at the University of Florida. We were helping several athletes with heat cramps after the second practice of the day.  I was placed in charge of a young man who was experiencing a simple cramp in his side.  I gave him a sports drink and told him to sit to the side so I could attend to players with more severe cases.  Five minutes later, the young man was experiencing full body cramps and was throwing up on my shoes.  I learned then never to dismiss someone with just one heat cramp!

Dr. Yeargin is an Assistant Professor in the Physical Education and Athletic Training Department at the University of South Carolina. An expert on child and adolescent hydration and heat illness, she is the author or co-author of twenty-five peer-reviewed journal articles, and has made over 20 professional presentations at the local, national, and international level on thermoregulation and hydration behaviors.

Dr. Yeargin is the official liaison for the National Association of Athletic Trainers (NATA) to the American Red Cross. She also serves as a member on NATA's Pronouncement's Committee and Free Communications Research Committee. She was a NATA member on the Inter-Association Task Force which developed pre-season heat acclimatization guidelines for high school football, and has athletic training experience at the high school and Division I collegiate level in football, soccer, swimming and diving, cross-country, and as a volunteer on the medical staff at the Boston Marathon®.

In addition to the NATA, Dr. Yeargin is a member of the American College of Sports Medicine. She received her B.S. in Athletic Training from James Madison, University, M.S. in Exercise and Sports Science from the University of Florida, and her PhD in Kinesiology from the University of Connecticut.