Is there a doctor in the (Big) House?

Advice from U-M’s Mark Lowell, M.D., on staying cool & healthy during early-season football games

Football season is here – but football weather? That’s weeks away.

With summer-like temperatures expected for today’s U-M football game, the doctor in charge of the Michigan Stadium first aid operation is bracing for plenty of heat-stricken fans seeking medical help.

Survival Flight helicopters over Michigan Stadium

Mark Lowell, M.D., has worked closely with Huron Valley Ambulance running the Big House medical operation for 15 years. He’s a U-M emergency physician, and medical director of the U-M Health System’s Survival Flight air medical service.

Lowell offers these tips to help fans avoid having to pay him and his team a visit during this game — or any early season game:

  • Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate: Drinking water is the simplest and easiest thing to do to prevent heat-related issues. Although fans can’t bring water bottles or empty containers into the Big House for safety reasons, they can get a free cup of water from any concession stand that sells soda pop, or buy a bottle and keep refilling it at water fountains.
    • Set a reminder on your smartphone to prompt you to hydrate at least once an hour, so you don’t forget during the excitement of the game.
    • Don’t wait until you’re thirsty. By then, you’re already dehydrated.
    • Alcohol, soda pop and other drinks with caffeine or lots of sugar won’t help – in fact, they’ll dehydrate you. If you choose to drink alcohol during tailgating, do it responsibly – not only does it dehydrate you, but being under the influence means you’re less likely to recognize the signs of heat-related problems.
  • If you take “water pills” (diuretics) for blood pressure, kidney disease or another condition, or your doctor has told you to limit fluids because you have a condition such as heart failure, be careful about water intake. Pay special attention to your doctor’s advice for hot weather, and don’t over-exert yourself.
  • Block that sun: Put sunscreen on exposed skin before you start tailgating or head to the stadium, to let it take effect, and keep applying as you sweat it off. Wear a hat with a broad brim, and cover up other exposed skin as much as you can stand.
    • Wet your hat: It’s amazing how well this little trick works. Just pour some water on it from a drinking fountain or sink.
  • Don’t let heat exhaustion (or worse) sneak up on you: Patients who wind up in the first aid station or emergency department during football games often disregarded the early signs of heat-related issues, such as nausea, headache and dizziness, says Lowell.“It’s so easy to get caught up in the excitement of the game, and the scene in the stadium, that you don’t realize what’s happening until it’s too late,” he says.At the first indication you might be feeling faint, dizzy, nauseous or just weird, speak up – and head for some shade and source of water.
  • Don’t hesitate to seek help: In addition to Lowell’s team in the First Aid building, volunteers from the American Red Cross fan out throughout the stadium and can assist any fan who needs medical assistance. So can stadium staff.
    • If you or someone you’re with needs a little help getting around, or has a medical condition that makes them vulnerable to heat-related issues, there are free wheelchairs for use, and parking shuttles – take advantage of them. (See this page for details.)
    • If you have any inkling you or a member of your party is having heat-related trouble, stop and talk with a Red Cross volunteer or security team member. Or, call 911 from your cell phone a
      Mark Lowell

      Mark Lowell is medical director both for Michigan Stadium’s first aid station during football season, and the Survival Flight air medical service.

      nd report where you are. The First Aid building is west of Gate 9, at the north end of the stadium.

  • Take special care with those who need it: “The ones we worry most about,” says Lowell, “are the very old, the very young, and people with chronic conditions.” Young kids, people with asthma and heart conditions, and people with learning difficulties and mental illness (who may not communicate their distress until it is too late) need special attention to avoid heat-related problems.
  • If you’re at the game with someone who falls into one of these groups, especiallyif they can’t easily speak up about how they’re feeling, be vigilant — and don’t push yourselves.
  • Take breaks in the shade – Before the sun gets the best of you, take a break in shady areas of tailgating or stadium grounds.But don’t do it during the U-M Marching Band’s halftime show, says Lowell – you might miss a special appearance by the U-M Survival Flight medical helicopter.

For more tips on preventing heat-related health problems, see this page from the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention.




University of Michigan Health SystemFor more than 160 years, the University of Michigan Health System has been a national leader in advanced patient care, innovative research to improve human health and comprehensive education of physicians and medical scientists. The three U-M hospitals have been recognized numerous times for excellence in patient care, including a #1 ranking in Michigan and national rankings in many specialty areas by U.S. News & World Report.