By Joseph (JT) Cooper, GAMMA Brand Partner & Meteorologist
While pickleball may not be the most dangerous sport played in the United States or the world, there are definitely some inherent risks that come with any sport.
This is especially true when a sport is played outside and on-court conditions can be made dangerous from not just the game itself, but the weather it is played in! In this blog, I discuss some of the dangers involved with pickleball that come with playing outdoors and what you can do to stay healthy and play your best!
Perhaps the biggest hazard to pickleball players is heat. Not only is pickleball played outdoors during the warm season in northern states, but per the SFIA (Sports and Fitness Industry Association), one of the areas with the most participants is in the South Atlantic region which includes states like Florida and Georgia where it can stay warm into, and even through the winter.
Heat can be hard on even the most athletic and well-conditioned players, causing players to become dehydrated leading to cramps, dizziness, nausea, and even vomiting. However, more serious conditions can arise like heat exhaustion and heat stroke. When hot temperatures combine with increasing humidity levels, heat-related illnesses increase as well. According to the National Weather Service (NWS), heat-related deaths lead all other weather phenomenon in fatalities.
So, what can you do to stay healthy and beat the heat?! If Heat Advisories or Excessive Heat Warnings are issued, try to limit your time outside. If you must be outside, make sure to take frequent breaks and drink plenty of water to stay well hydrated. Also, wear a hat that covers your face. Wear light, loose, and light-colored clothing. Lastly, never disregard signs of a heat-related illness such as cramps, vomiting, nausea, paleness of skin, or profusely sweating. Immediately go into an air-conditioned area and drink fluids if this occurs. If you experience lasting symptoms or have a body temperature of 103°+, go to the hospital immediately!
While thunderstorms are not as concerning as heat, they can still be a serious hazard to people outside. Some may think of strong winds, large hail, and even tornadoes as a major concern with thunderstorms, lightning is by far the greatest threat for outdoor pickleball players.
Lightning is created when the difference between a positive and negative charge becomes too great and it creates a quick discharge of energy seen as a bolt and/or lightning strike. Lightning can reach a temperature of 50,000° F, hotter than the surface of the sun! Lightning kills an average of 47 people each year in the U.S. and injures hundreds more. Though lightning typically occurs during a thunderstorm, it can strike 10-20 miles out from its parent thunderstorm, known as “A Bolt from The Blue”, because it can occur under blue sky conditions. While lightning is a serious concern, being struck by lightning is easily preventable. The NWS states “When Thunder Roars, Go Indoors”, this is by far the safest option. But what if you are outside and get caught in a thunderstorm? You should avoid open or high places, stay away from tall trees, metal poles and tall objects. Stay away from wet objects as well, because water is a great conductor of electricity.
While large hail, damaging winds, and tornadoes are not a typical or common threat, they should not be left out. Severe weather is common during the Spring and Summer seasons which is typically when many of us are starting to get outside to play! Overall, the best way to stay safe is to follow the “When Thunder Roars, Go Indoors” rule because you will likely hear thunder well before you experience any aspects of severe weather. However, one of the best ways to stay safe from severe weather is to have an app or alert sent to your smart phone giving you vital information on severe weather watches and warnings. In the digital age of media and phone apps, there are many ways to stay ahead of severe weather that won’t cost you a dime!
While weather can be unpredictable, many weather-related health issues can be easily prevented by taking the proper precautions. Doing so will ensure you and your fellow pickleball players’ health for many matches to come! Happy pickleballing.