Heat risk and young athletes -- rising temperatures lead to lawsuits and environmental injustice

At least 50 high school football players in the U.S. have died from heat stroke after falling ill on the field in the past 25 years. And high school athletes in other sports are not immune from the risks – female cross-country athletes are twice as likely to suffer from heat-related illnesses as athletes in any other high school sport.

The numbers are especially shocking when you consider that heat-related illnesses and deaths are entirely preventable.

While sports equipment has improved over time to protect against concussions, young players and college athletes are facing increasing risks from rising heat.

We study sport ecology and legal aspects of sport. With summer temperatures rising, we believe many youth sports leagues and school districts will need to aggressively update their practice rules and heat policies to keep their players safe. We suggest particular attention be paid to low-income, minority neighborhoods and regions that can get excessively hot.

Heat risks in youth sports

Each year, summer marks the return of discussions of just how severe the sweltering heat is. Nine of the 10 hottest years on record globally have been since 2012, and this year’s late-spring and early-summer heat waves were previews for what forecasters warned would be a brutal summer of 2022.

Yet many interscholastic and preparatory sport summer camps have kids running hard through the summer months, sometimes on days that reach triple-digit temperatures.

In a period of rapid climate change, ensuring heat risks remain preventable is critical.

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