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Former NFL player Mitch Petrus dead from heatstroke at 32

The one-time Super Bowl champion's death points to concerns about staying safe as temperatures are expected to sizzle around the country this weekend.
Mitch Petrus
Mitch Petrus played in the NFL for three seasons.Handout / Getty Images
/ Source: TODAY

Mitch Petrus, a former offensive lineman who won a Super Bowl with the New York Giants, died Thursday of heatstroke in a North Little Rock, Arkansas, hospital. He was 32.

Temperatures in Little Rock rose to a high of 92 degrees on Thursday, as the city copes with a heat wave that is expected to blanket a good portion of the country this weekend.

"He was working at his family shop, outside ... and suffered heatstroke," Pulaski County Coroner Gerone Hobbs told NBC News about Petrus. "He was drinking water but not enough electrolytes."

Former NFL player Mitch Petrus dies of heatstroke
Mitch Petrus, who won a Super Bowl with the New York Giants, was only 32 when he died of heatstroke.MCT via Getty Images

Petrus attended the University of Arkansas, graduating in 2009 before the Giants drafted him in 2010. He played in the team’s 21-17 victory over the New England Patriots in the 2012 Super Bowl. He also played for the Patriots and Tennessee Titans during his three-year NFL career.

Petrus’ death underscores concerns about the excessive heat that has already gripped much of the nation.

"The best way to avoid heat-related illness is to avoid being outside in the heat," Dr. Sean McGann, clinical assistant professor in the department of emergency medicine at Sidney Kimmel Medical College at Philadelphia's Thomas Jefferson University, told TODAY in an email.

"The safest place to be is inside, in air conditioning," McGann advised. "If you must be outside, make your trips as short as possible. Try to avoid peak sunlight hours, typically noon-3 p.m. Stay in the shade as much as possible."

McGann, a spokesperson for the American College of Emergency Physicians, also urges people to drink fluids to avoid dehydration.

"It is very easy to get significantly dehydrated when out in such heat and humidity," he said. "People should be drinking all day, even when not thirsty. A quick way to assess hydration is the clarity of your urine, the goal is to have very pale yellow or clear urine. Darker, more concentrated urine can be a sign of dehydration."

McGann also said people should remain alert for warnings that they may be coming down with any sickness that can be attributed to the heat.

"Early signs of heat-related illnesses include cool, moist, pale or flushed skin, headache, nausea, generalized weakness, lightheartedness and heavy sweating," he wrote. "If someone is experiencing these symptoms they should get out of the heat as soon as possible."

McGann, who said cool towels and fans can provide some relief, also pointed out there are some things people can avoid doing if heat exhaustion does set in.

"Do not remain out in the heat," he wrote. "If exercising, do not continue exerting yourself. Do not use or administer salt tablets, which were recommended at times in the past but have since been (determined) to be unhelpful and in some cases harmful."

Ultimately, people can take one simple step to avoid getting sick from the heat.

"Stay inside!" McGann wrote. "This is not the week to catch up on your landscaping or to start training for that marathon!"