Ready-Set-Hike! US Athletes Adapting to Climate Change

17 Aug

By: Andrew Parker, Program Associate, PISA

Edited by: Suzanne Kelly-Lyall, PISA


US high school football players on the field

The US is often perceived to be indifferent to climate change while the rest of the world is working hard to adapt and mitigate climate impacts, one concrete example of climate change having real repercussions on the daily lives of Americans is found in sports. Specifically, in that most American of all sports, football.  Visit any small town in the US in August and you will find football players on the field practicing for the upcoming season – increasingly, in extreme heat.  As a result, there has been a marked increase in heat-related deaths among young football players.  Each year between 1994 and 2009 three students died from heat-related causes according to a study cited in the Scientific American article.

The Scientific American article explains how Georgia and a handful of other US states have adopted policies to regulate football training during the hot summer months.  The warming trend is irrefutable as the US Environmental Protection Agency reports:

Seven of the warmest years on record for the lower 48 states have occurred since 1990 […] the last 10 five year periods have been the 10 warmest five-year periods on record.

The practice policy adopted by the Georgia High School Association in March of uses the Wet Bulb Globe Temperature reading as a key metric in determining what equipment is to be worn by the players, the intensity and duration of the workout, and whether any outdoor workouts can be held at all. Schools found violating the policy can be fined between $500 to $1,000 dollars. Authors of the Scientific American article note that while most Georgians are pleased with the new policy, some worry that the practice restrictions may put Georgia at a disadvantage when playing against teams from states that do not have a heat policy in place.

Climate adaptation is not always a set of dry government policies or expensive programs.  The Georgia High School Association is a prime example of a community response to a local climate-challenge and its tragic consequences – the untimely and ultimately avoidable deaths of young football players.


One Response to “Ready-Set-Hike! US Athletes Adapting to Climate Change”

  1. Scott August 17, 2012 at 4:45 pm #

    Some troubling facts. We have to learn to change with the environment. Hopefully these problems at the very least raise awareness.

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