Unless you’ve been living under a rock, chances are you’ve heard about the turn-up in climate across the globe. It’s all over social media and you can’t seem to look at a screen without related news popping up!
It’s real, it’s happening, and it’s affecting the entire sports world. Granted, the impact may not be as devastating as droughts or forest fires, however, the effects of climate change on sports are becoming more evident with each passing day. Your favorite sport may very well be comprised.
Well, long story short, it’s getting hotter.
The greenhouse effect is taking its toll on earth, raising its temperature on a global scale with no intention of stopping any time soon.
In fact, July of 2019 was recorded as the warmest July since global recordings started in 1880 at 0.95°C above average. The previous record was actually set in 2016 by 0.3°C.
The values are shooting up and it’s alarming!
Financial Decline Of Winter Sports
The impact of climate change can be clearly seen from the decline in the winter sports industry revenue. According to the Geophysical Research Letters journal, the amount of snow in the western United States decreased by a massive 41% in 2016 when compared to 1982.
Such a reduction caused the snow season to become 34 days shorter. This means we lost over a month of winter, and consequently, time to do various snow sports such as skiing, ice hockey, and snowboarding.
These types of winter sports and activities are a fundamental part of the US economy, especially for colder states like Colorado. According to climate central, ski, snowboard, and snowmobiling industries had employed at least 212,000 people and contributes with an estimated 20 billion dollar revenue to the US economy, as reported by CNBC.
Athletes’ Health At Risk
Climate change brings a grave threat to athletes in practically most sports.
Exercising itself generates a great deal of core heat, muscles work to produce as much as 70% of the body heat. This means that intense physical effort can cause such a significant increase in the body’s temperature, that when combined with external weather factors (for example, humidity, sun exposure, and high temperature), the results can be devastating.
Journal of Thermal Biology published a recent study concerning the temperature at which the body’s capacity for aerobic activity is impaired. It was found that approaching 40°C is most likely to put the body in a state of exhaustion, incapable of further effort.
Moreover, studying the effect of performing intense workout sessions on the rate increase of body heat, it was found that heat production was approximately 100% larger towards the final second compared to the initial 5 seconds.
This means that, currently, athletes are more prone to heat-related illnesses ranging from heat cramps to life-threatening heat strokes. Such risks heavily impact an athlete’s ability to perform as expected.
Incidents On The Field
Tennis is one sport where you can see the true effects of the insane rise in heat while still holding a match through the surge.
In the 2014 Australian Open, the Canadian tennis player Frank Dancevic reported he saw Snoopy, the cartoon character, out on the court before he collapsed due to the extreme heat of 42°C which he describes as “inhumane”.
There were other incidents related to the scorching Melbourne heat, where 2008 French finalist Jo-Wilfred Tsonga had his shoe materials softening on the court, former women’s world champion Caroline Wozniacki’s also reported her plastic water bottle melting on the court, and Peng Shuai vomited then fell with cramps.
Football players, on a similar note, are in an especially higher risk of suffering from heat-related illnesses owing to their thick uniforms and heavy padding. However, it doesn’t stop at injuries like tennis. In fact, 30 NCAA football players have died as a result of overheating during college workouts since the year 2000, as reported by the HBO newsmagazine.
Even a virtually serene sport like golf had its rough times because of climate change. In July 2016, floods described as ‘historic’ washed over West Virginia state where the Greenbrier Resort is located, deeming the famous golf course unplayable. The Professional Golfers’ Association had to cancel the Greenbrier Classic tournament on account of the flooding.
In 2013, the British Open Muirfield also suffered from the heat burden as some of the greens were dying making a number of courses virtually unplayable.
To address the prominent repercussions and health risks resulting from temperatures soaring above 40°C, organizers of the Australian Open have revised and modified their heat policy before the 2015 tournament kick-off.
Due to the sizzling temperatures of the summer, the soccer 2022 World Cup held in Qatar is set to play in November and December, instead of the traditional July. This is actually a first in the history of the World Cup organization.
As for the upcoming 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, organizers are taking measures to ensure the July/August heat won’t affect the games. For example, they rescheduled the start time of the marathon races to be earlier, and also covered the courses as well as other major roads with reflective surfaces to lower the pavement temperature.
Additionally, tents, fans, and cooling mist sprays are among the ways being considered to keep the spectators cool.
The negative backlash of climate change on sports will continue to manifest itself unless more people take a stand. While there’ve been some positive responses to the risky situation, as fans and athletes, we still hope for conclusive future solutions.
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