How hot is too hot for sport?

Fairfield Lions batsman Wendell Delpechitra bats in extreme heat recently at Rosedale Oval. Picture: Chris Lane
Fairfield Lions batsman Wendell Delpechitra bats in extreme heat recently at Rosedale Oval. Picture: Chris Lane

A Western Sydney University expert in sport physiology said scheduling professional sport in extreme heat  sets a bad example for amateur sportspeople.

Dr Ric Lovell, from the University’s School of Health and Science, said professional athletes often train and prepare specifically for extreme heat making player welfare less of a concern.

He also said they are supported by expert medical and sports science personnel who can monitor the athlete closely and assist with heat loss strategies.

Amateur sportsman are not as well prepared and don’t have access to the same resources.

“The professional athletes in most part will find a way to cope and their bodies will recover. More focus should be placed on the welfare of amateur and youth athletes, and the implementation of evidenced-based heat policies that can protect their less-resilient bodies during oppressive heat waves,” Dr Lovell said.

“When the extreme conditions arrive, there is always going to be some concern for the athletes’ welfare.

“The human body is incredible at adapting to the heat and professional athletes often train and prepare specifically for these extreme conditions. Their bodies generally acclimatise, enabling them to tolerate it well.”

Dr Lovell added that sport that is played in extreme heat makes for a “pretty dull” game.

“When body temperatures increase to critical levels, the natural physiological response is to slow down. In order to cope with the heat, the body doesn’t work as hard,” he said.

“Fatiguing symptoms are exacerbated and reflexes impaired. This leads to fatigued athletes, with reduced intensity and more skill errors – and it makes for a pretty dull game.”

Local amateur sports associations all have heat guidelines they adhere too.

Fairfield Liverpool Cricket Association president Peter Moore said if the forecast is for 40 degrees or more they wont play. 

Last February Cricket NSW cancelled all grades of the NSW Premier Cricket  and recommended all cricket associations in Sydney do the same for predicted extreme heat.

Head coach at the Marconi Tennis Academy Stewart Whicker said they follow the Tennis Australia guidelines which requires play to be suspended if the ambient air temperature reaches 36 degrees (16 and under) and 38 degrees (16 and over).

The Southern Districts Soccer Football Association operate under the Football NSW heat policy which states that activity should be cancelled when ambient air temperature reaches 32 degrees (children) and 37 degrees (adults).

The policy also notes cancellation may be necessary at lower temperatures, where a higher level of humidity is present.