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July 2, 2017- by Steven E. Greer, MD
I just figured out my medical mystery from yesterday on the golf course.
I was walking the Ohio State Scarlet course. It was near 90-degrees but also extremely humid. On the practice putting green, the sweat was literally pouring from my ball cap. In the practice sand bunker, it felt unusually warm.
However, this is nothing new. It is typical Ohio weather. I just drank three or four bottles of electrolyte sports drink throughout the 9-holes and thought I would be fine. But after the 10th hole, I felt strange and walked off the course. The bag felt like it was 60-pounds. I have never had any trouble carrying a bag before.
When I got into the car, my legs cramped up. I felt unusual. I was becoming agitated and aggressive.
I was drinking plenty of electrolytes and fluids. So, what went wrong? Was it just the signs of aging?
This was the problem: For sun protection, I was wearing pants and a tight-fitting Under Armour shirt that covered my arms. I was not radiating heat through the normal sweating process.
A smart cardiologist then told me that my fluids might have been fine, but that my core temperature was elevated to heat-stroke level. Evaporation of sweat is very effective at cooling the body, but it has to take place on the skin surface. The tight garments prevent that.
Fortunately, I am very perceptive and a borderline hypochondriac, so I did not try to play more holes. If I had gone on to try to finish the round, I might be dead or in the ICU right now with liver and kidney damage. With elevated core temperatures, your organs literally cook.
The lesson here is to be very careful with these modern polyester sports garments. They are not like cotton. Even if you drink fluids, you will still overheat. Also, be aware of the symptoms of heat stroke.
In hindsight, I was developing a high core body temperature before I even teed off. I was hitting balls for more than an hour and my head was drenched in sweat because it was the only part of my body not smothered up by the Under Armour gear. Profuse sweating is not normal.
Every year, local TV stations run the same stories about how to avoid heat stroke. They say to wear loose clothing. Evaporation cools the body only if it takes place in the skin surface. These new tech garments prevent that cooling effect.