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Exertional heat illnesses in marching band artists: a case series


Marching band (MB) artists frequently spend many hours engaged in outdoor physical activity. Anecdotal evidence and small studies have indicated that MB artists do experience heat-related health problems. Yet, unlike athletes, military personnel, or workers, there is very little research on heat-related hazards among this unique population. Here, we seek to understand the incidence and circumstances under which exertional heat illnesses (EHIs) occur among MB artists over a 31-year period (1990–2020) across the USA. Using an on-line news dataset, we identified 34 separate events and at least 393 total EHIs. Heat syncope (~ 55%) and heat exhaustion (~ 44%) comprised the majority of EHIs, although a small number of exertional heat stroke cases were also reported. EHIs were reported in all types of MB activities with ~ 32% during rehearsal, ~ 29% during parades, ~ 21% during competition, and ~ 15% during a performance. Also, the vast majority of events occurred with high school (~ 88%) marching bands. Finally, EHIs overwhelmingly occurred when the weather was unusually hot by local conditions. In light of these findings, we emphasize the need for MB specific heat polices that incorporate weather-based activity modification, acclimatization, education about EHIs, and access to on-site medical professionals.

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Correspondence to Andrew Grundstein.

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Merchant, R.K., Grundstein, A., Yeargin, S. et al. Exertional heat illnesses in marching band artists: a case series. Int J Biometeorol 65, 2181–2188 (2021).

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  • Marching band
  • Weather
  • Heat illness
  • USA