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

Many young athletes spend hours in the hot sun every day. Nancy Lane/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald via Getty Images

by Jessica R. Murfree, Texas A&M University and Natasha Brison, Texas A&M University

At least 50 high school football players in the U.S. have died from heat stroke 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.

A young player sits against a fence next to a track looking exhausted while a man crouches down next to him and talks to him.
An athletic trainer helps a teenage football player who had trouble after running during August training at a Maryland high school. Jonathan Newton / The Washington Post via Getty Images

Heat is the most frequent climate-related killer in the United States, with more deaths associated with it than tornadoes, floods and cold temperatures. And days of extreme heat and humidity are now surpassing concerning levels for human health. Overall, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported an average of more than 700 heat-related U.S. deaths each year between 2004 and 2018. Some of the hottest years ever recorded have happened since then, and preliminary data detailing heat deaths in the U.S. indicates the rate increased 56% from 2018 to 2021.

Extreme heat due to climate change is making sport participation progressively challenging.

For high school athletes, the prevalence of extreme heat is leading to escalating heat-related illness, injuries, hospitalizations and deaths. In fact, heat stroke is a leading cause of death in sports.

Unsurprisingly, the greatest concentration of heat illness in young athletes occurs in August: the back-to-school and back-to-sports season.

When heat risks trigger lawsuits

Recognizing the warning signs can be especially challenging for children and teens. Young people are still learning how to communicate their feelings and experiences, and that can be more difficult in sport environments that promote toughness and perseverance. Ultimately, young athletes must trust adults to protect them.

Evidence suggests the prevalence of exertional heat stroke among high school athletes is largely due to young athletes’ not acclimatizing, or physically adjusting to the heat, particularly in the first few weeks of practice. Although heat policies related to temperature and hydration exist at the high school level, they aren’t always enforced. And they may need to be improved to reflect the warming climate given the rate of heat illness.

Illustration of human body listing symptoms of heat strike and heat exhaustion
Signs of heat illness and what to do. Elenabs via Getty Images

As a result, parents and guardians are faced with how best to advocate for their children.

In some cases, families have sued after heat injuries, both to recover money for their child’s suffering and to drive change in the hope that no other child will have to endure what others have. However, the heat injuries continue to rise.

Adults’ responsibility to keep children safe in sport settings becomes blurry as the growth in legal challenges related to heat illness demonstrates a disconnect between adults’ duty of care and athletes’ well-being. Negligence is a common claim associated with these lawsuits. Allegations of child endangerment or wrongful death can lead to civil or criminal legal disputes. But can reactive legal action prevent these heat injuries in the long run?

The fact that heat injuries are preventable is often why legal cases alleging negligence and wrongful death are successful. Still, heat stress, heat exhaustion, heatstroke and sunstroke are not uncommon in sports. Medical researchers have described heat illness among athletes as one of the most prominent pieces of evidence of climate change’s hazards and effect on sport.

Climate injustice for young athletes

Extreme heat can also enhance existing injustices and inequities.

For example, non-Hispanic Black Americans suffer heat-related deaths at a rate higher than the U.S. average. That doubles for Indigenous and Native Americans, who report the highest death rate from heat.

For athletes, the consequences of extreme heat can further complicate environmental and climate injustice. For instance, racial minorities and those in lower socioeconomic brackets have greater chances of living in the warmest areas, including urban heat islands, where heat trapped by pavement and buildings can make temperatures several degrees hotter than the city average.

A map showing hospitalizations peak at heat indices in California and the Northwest than other parts of the country.
The heat index is a combination of heat and humidity. Heat-related hospitalizations begin rising at lower heat index values in normally cooler parts of the country. Climate Central, CC BY-ND

At the same time, efforts are underway to diversify the sport landscape and provide equitable access to sport and recreation for all people. A vicious cycle spins between social justice – efforts to diversify sports – and environmental and climate justice, in which the most vulnerable communities face the greatest climate harm and health risks but are underresourced and ill-equipped to adapt to the changing climate.

Moving forward

Sports leagues and athletes have taken a stand on many social issues, but they are often reactive when implementing and advocating for change.

For instance, leagues implemented regulatory policies regarding brain safety only after countless tragedies. People began to focus on traumatic brain injury and chronic traumatic encephalopathy after the deaths of numerous NFL players and a blockbuster film.

The heat-related deaths of collegiate and NFL football players, notably Minnesota Vikings player Korey Stringer, have drawn some attention to the risks. Tokyo 2020 Olympians and FIFA World Cup organizers have cited the need for regulatory changes because of the effects of extreme heat on athlete health. But it’s often only after a tragedy that improvements are made to protect young athletes from heat illness.

Two teenage players drink from large coolers near a playing field
Requiring breaks that allow athletes to cool off can save lives. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Portland Portland Press Herald via Getty Images

The sport sector can make immediate practical and policy-related adaptations to extreme heat to protect children. These include modifying practice schedules, increasing the number of water breaks, revising athletic heat policies to reflect climate change, and implementing procedures to ensure compliance by coaches and athletic administrators.

Texas A&M students Ariana Taylor and Ashwin Mathew in the DeBakey Executive Research Leadership Program contributed to this article.

Jessica R. Murfree, Visiting Assistant Professor of Sport Management and ACES Faculty Fellow, Texas A&M University and Natasha Brison, Assistant Professor of Sport Management, Texas A&M University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Greening Professional Sport: How Communicating the Fit, Proximity, and Impact of Sustainability Efforts Affects Fan Perceptions and Supportive Intentions

Harrison, V.S.; Vafeiadis, M.; Bober, J. (2022). “Greening Professional Sport: How Communicating the Fit, Proximity, and Impact of Sustainability Efforts Affects Fan Perceptions and Supportive Intentions.” Sustainability 14, 3139. https://doi.org/10.3390/su14063139

Abstract: Grounded in multidisciplinary literature from public relations, sport communication, and marketing, this study examined consumer reactions to sustainability initiatives launched by major sports leagues. Through an online survey (N = 254), the results showed that sports league-cause fit resulted in more positive organization–public relationships (OPRs) such as through trust, commitment, satisfaction, and control mutuality. Further, the findings revealed that a closer geographic proximity of the sustainability initiative and an increased perceived impact (donation amount and number of beneficiaries affected) triggered higher perceptions of trust, organizational authenticity, and fandom toward the sponsoring sports league. Interestingly, a significant two-way interaction between spatial proximity and impact suggested that lower perceptions of the impact of the corporate social responsibility (CSR) program evoked more positive attitudes when involving local beneficiaries, whereas higher perceptions of impact improved organizational attitudes when the beneficiaries were located faraway. Lastly, the findings indicated that the OPR variables, especially trust, as well as fandom, and organizational authenticity elicited higher supportive intentions (e.g., support CSR cause, donate, volunteer, share on social media) toward the sports league. Theoretical implications for fit, construal level theory, and CSR impact as well as implications for sport communication practitioners are discussed.

Anheuser-Busch funds recycling competition

Read the full story at Waste Today.

St. Louis-based brewer and beverage producer Anheuser-Busch has launched a program involving Major League Baseball (MLB) and the National Football League (NFL) teams designed as a “multi-sports league coalition aiming to reduce waste on game day.”

The beverage maker says its National Recycling League “will leverage the scale and reach of the brewer’s professional sports team and league partnerships to elevate how the beverage industry encourages recycling. The National Recycling League aims to create meaningful connections between Anheuser-Busch’s brands including Budweiser, Bud Light and Michelob Ultra, its league and team partners, and sports fans nationwide to raise awareness of the need for recycling and drive key recycling behaviors among consumers wherever they cheer on their favorite team – whether it’s in-stadium, at home or at a neighborhood bar.”

Lead contamination remains a significant issue at outdoor shooting ranges, prompting environmental law citizen suits

Read the full story at JD Supra.

Spent lead ammunition at outdoor shooting ranges remains a significant environmental topic, as accumulated lead can pose a threat to human health and the environment if best management practices are not implemented in a timely fashion to minimize the impact. Lead contamination is a known issue in the shooting community, remains an issue at ranges in many states, and has resulted in several recent major, sometimes multi-million dollar, remediation efforts. In 2021, the owners and operators of a Maryland shooting range settled a citizen lawsuit on the condition that the owners address the existing lead in the soil, surface water and wetlands, redirect certain shooting stations away from wetlands, and conduct regular sampling to check for contamination.

With that said, the civilian outdoor shooting range industry remains largely unregulated. In 2001, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (“USEPA”) developed a guidance manual called The Best Management Practices for Lead at Outdoor Shooting Ranges (EPA-902-B-01-001; revised in June 2005) (the “BMP Guidance”). 

Environmental Health Impacts of Synthetic Turf and Safer Alternatives

Research on the production, use, and disposal of artificial turf has brought to light concerns over environmental contamination, human health hazards, and adverse effects on wildlife. Researchers have studied a variety of contaminants found in artificial turf and different types of infill used to soften its surfaces. Concerns have been raised about polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), heavy metals, per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), 6PPD-quinone, and microplastics, among others. Studies have also examined heat related illnesses, skin infections, and other human health concerns. During this webinar Rachel Massey, ScD, Lindsey Pollard, MS, Zhenyu TianPhD, and Sarah Evans, PhD, discussed their work looking at environmental health impacts of artificial turf and safer alternatives.

Dr. Rachel Massey and Lindsey Pollard discussed the research they have conducted at the Toxics Use Reduction Institute (TURI) on health and environmental implications of artificial turf and safer alternatives. They described their research on materials used as artificial turf infill, including waste tire materials. They  also touched upon emerging information on chemicals in artificial turf grass blades, as well as other health and environmental concerns associated with artificial turf, such as microplastic pollution and high surface temperatures. They briefly discussed their research on natural grass athletic fields as a safer alternative.

Dr. Zhenyu Tian briefly summarized the identification of 6PPD-quinone as a lethal toxicant for coho salmon, and will further introduce the comprehensive screening of organic contaminants in urban stormwater and tire wear particle leachate. He discussed knowledge gaps and ongoing research about crumb rubber infill materials.

To conclude, Dr. Sarah Evans spoke from a pediatric environmental health perspective, touching on routes of exposure and concerns specific to children, with an emphasis on what families and communities can do to use safer alternatives.

Taking the wheel for green change

Read the full story at The Hill.

For former stock car racer Leilani Münter, plastering her cars with graphics trumpeting the virtues of veganism and warning of the threat of mass extinction made them the ultimate vehicles for influencing public policy on the ground.

How climate change threatens the Winter Olympics’ future – even snowmaking has limits for saving the Games

Almost all of the snow at the 2022 Winter Olympics came from machines. AP Photo/Gregory Bull

by Steven R. Fassnacht, Colorado State University and Sunshine Swetnam, Colorado State University

The Winter Olympics is an adrenaline rush as athletes fly down snow-covered ski slopes, luge tracks and over the ice at breakneck speeds and with grace.

When the first Olympic Winter Games were held in Chamonix, France, in 1924, all 16 events took place outdoors. The athletes relied on natural snow for ski runs and freezing temperatures for ice rinks.

Two skaters on ice outside with mountains in the background. They are posing as if gliding together.
Sonja Henie, left, and Gilles Grafstrom at the Olympic Winter Games in Chamonix, France, in 1924. The Associated Press

Nearly a century later, in 2022, the world watched skiers race down runs of 100% human-made snow near Beijing. Luge tracks and ski jumps have their own refrigeration, and four of the original events are now held indoors: Figure skaters, speed skaters, curlers and hockey teams all compete in climate-controlled buildings.

Innovation made the 2022 Winter Games possible in Beijing, but snowmaking can go only so far in a warming climate.

As global temperatures rise, what will the Winter Games look like in another century? Will they even be possible?

Former host cities that would be too warm

The average daytime temperature of Winter Games host cities in February has increased steadily since those first events in Chamonix, rising from 33 degrees Fahrenheit (0.4 C) in the 1920s-1950s to 46 F (7.8 C) in the early 21st century.

In a recent study, scientists looked at the venues of 19 past Winter Olympics to see how each might hold up under future climate change.

A cross-country skier falls in front of another during a race. The second skier has his mouth open as if shouting.
Human-made snow was used to augment trails at the Sochi Games in 2014. Some athletes complained that it made the trails icier and more dangerous. AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky

They found that by midcentury, four former host cities – Chamonix; Sochi, Russia; Grenoble, France; and Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany – would no longer have a reliable climate for hosting the Games, even under the United Nations’ best-case scenario for climate change, which assumes the world quickly cuts its greenhouse gas emissions. If the world continues burning fossil fuels at high rates, Squaw Valley, California, and Vancouver, British Columbia, would join that list.

By the 2080s, the scientists found, the climates in 11 of 21 former venues would be too unreliable to host the Winter Olympics’ outdoor events; among them were Turin, Italy; Nagano, Japan; and Innsbruck, Austria.

These venues would all be susceptible to problems associated with snowmaking.

Ideal snowmaking conditions today require a dewpoint temperature – the combination of coldness and humidity – of around 28 F (-2 C) or less. More moisture in the air melts snow and ice at colder temperatures, which affects snow on ski slopes and ice on bobsled, skeleton and luge tracks.

Stark white lines etched on a swath of brown mountains delineate ski routes and bobsled course.
A satellite view clearly shows the absence of natural snow during the 2022 Winter Olympics. Beijing’s bid to host the Winter Games had explained how extensively it would rely on snowmaking. Joshua Stevens/NASA Earth Observatory
A gondola passes by with dark ground below and white ski slopes behind it.
The finish area of the Alpine ski venue at the 2022 Winter Olympics was white because of artificially made snow. AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty

As Colorado snow and sustainability scientists and avid skiers, we’ve been watching the developments and studying the climate impact on the mountains and winter sports we love.

Conditions vary by location and year to year

The Earth’s climate will be warmer overall in the coming decades. Warmer air can mean more precipitation in some areas. It can also mean more winter rain, particularly at lower elevations. Over the globe, snow has been covering less area.

However, local changes vary. For example, in northern Colorado, the amount of snow has decreased since the 1970s, but the decline has mostly been at higher elevations.

A future climate may also be more humid, which affects snowmaking and could affect bobsled, luge and skeleton tracks.

Several barrels blow snow onto one ski run while skiers uses another.
Snowmaking machines spray artificially made snow on a ski slope during a test ahead of the 2022 Winter Olympics. AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein

Of the 15 Winter Games sports today, seven are affected by temperature and snow: alpine skiing, biathlon, cross-country skiing, freestyle skiing, Nordic combined, ski jumping and snowboarding. And three are affected by temperature and humidity: bobsled, luge and skeleton.

Technology also changes

Developments in technology have helped the Winter Games adapt to some changes over the past century.

Hockey moved indoors, followed by skating. Luge and bobsled tracks were refrigerated in the 1960s. The Lake Placid Winter Games in 1980 used snowmaking to augment natural snow on the ski slopes.

Today, initiatives are exploring ways to make skiing possible year-round with indoor skiing facilities. Ski Dubai, open since 2005, has five ski runs on a hill the height of a 25-story building inside a resort attached to a shopping mall.

Two workers pack snow on an indoor ski slope with a sloped ceiling overhead.
Dubai has an indoor ski slope with multiple runs and a chairlift, all part of a shopping mall complex. AP Photo/Jon Gambrell

But making snow and keeping it cold requires energy and water – and both become issues in a warming world. Water becomes more scarce in many areas. And energy, if it means more fossil fuel use, further contributes to climate change.

The International Olympic Committee recognizes that the future climate will have a big impact on the Olympics, both winter and summer. It also recognizes the importance of ensuring the adaptations are sustainable.

The Winter Olympics could become limited to more northerly locations, like Calgary, Alberta, or be pushed to higher elevations.

Summer Games are feeling climate pressure, too

The Summer Games also face challenges. Hot temperatures and high humidity can make competing in the summer difficult, but these sports have more flexibility than winter sports.

For example, changing the timing of typical summer events to another season can help alleviate excessive temperatures. The 2022 World Cup, normally a summer event, is scheduled for November so Qatar can host it.

What makes adaptation more difficult for the Winter Games is the necessity of snow or ice for all of the events.

A snowboarder with 'USA' on her gloves puts her arms out for balance on a run.
Climate change threatens the ideal environments for snowboarders, like U.S. Olympian Hailey Langland, competing here during the women’s snowboard big air final in Beijing. AP Photo/Jae C. Hong

Future depends on responses to climate change

In uncertain times, the Olympics offer a way for the world to come together.

People are thrilled by the athletic feats, like Jean-Claude Killy winning all three Alpine skiing events in 1968, and stories of perseverance, like the 1988 Jamaican bobsled team competing beyond all expectation.

The Winter Games’ outdoor sports may look very different in the future. How different will depend heavily on how countries respond to climate change.

Steven R. Fassnacht, Professor of Snow Hydrology, Colorado State University and Sunshine Swetnam, Assistant Professor of Natural Resources, Colorado State University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Facing the effects of climate change, skiers want to save their snow — and their sport

Read the full story in the Washington Post.

There are few places where climate change is as tangible as in the Alps; Europe’s largest mountain range has been warming at twice the global average. Snow has become scarcer, and glaciers are receding dramatically. Skiers see it when they ride down slopes sprayed with artificial snow, and they are increasingly concerned that their favorite sport helps damage the very environment they’re seeking.

Rising costs of climate change threaten to make skiing a less diverse, even more exclusive sport

Some resorts have launched diversity efforts to try to appeal to a wider community. Johannes Kroemer via Getty Images

by Brian P. McCullough, Texas A&M University and Lance Warwick, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Watching skiers compete almost entirely on artificially made snow at the 2022 Winter Olympics, we found it hard not to think about climate change and what it will mean for the future of the winter sports industry – and who will be able to participate.

Ski areas are increasingly reliant on extensive snowmaking operations to keep their slopes open as the planet warms. A few degrees of warming can mean more days of rain instead of snow and shorter seasons. That reduces the operators’ revenue and raises their costs.

Those costs, passed along to visitors in higher lift ticket and resort prices, directly affect who can afford to spend a day on the slopes skiing or snowboarding.

As resorts’ costs rise, these already expensive sports risk becoming more exclusive and less diverse.

Our research involves what’s known as intersectional sustainability in sports – looking at how to ensure they are both inclusive and environmentally sustainable. For ski resorts, intersectional sustainability means acknowledging that climate change may result in the unintended consequence of further entrenching the sports’ lack of diversity, and proactively seeking to prevent that.

Adaptation is necessary, and expensive

Creating artificial snow to adapt to climate change doesn’t come cheap.

Holiday Valley, a small resort in Ellicottville, New York, has invested over $13 million in snowmaking equipment in the past 40 years. On top of that are the costs of energy, labor and piping in thousands of gallons of water a minute to run snowmaking machines. Even as snowmaking machines become more efficient, the overall cost is still significant.

Skiers on a lift with a snowmaking machine running below
Snowmaking machines, like this one at Breckenridge Ski Resort in Colorado, use a lot of water and are often expensive to run. Andy Cross/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images

An analysis of the outlook for Blue Mountain, a ski resort in Ontario, Canada, offers a glimpse of the future.

In a best-case scenario, if the world achieves the Paris climate agreement goal of limiting warming to under 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 F), Blue Mountain’s ski season is to likely shorten by 8% and its snowmaking efforts would have to almost double by 2050. The window of ideal weather for snowmaking would also reduce by 22%, meaning the resort would be making snow under less efficient conditions, which further drives up the cost. Those extra costs likely will show up in higher lift ticket and resort prices.

Smaller resorts may be forced to take on debt to finance snowmaking equipment. High leverage ratios have been shown to reduce profitability for ski resorts. Some smaller ski areas have shut down, leaving fewer nearby options for skiing and snowboarding in some areas and reducing competition that could help keep prices in check.

Resorts already struggle with diversity

Alpine skiing and snowboarding resorts already draw criticism for their lack of diversity.

In 2019-20, 69% of visitors who described themselves as skiers and 61% as snowboarders identified as Caucasian or white, according to Snowsports Industries of America. The organization found the most frequent participants are even less diverse.

A separate survey by the National Ski Area Association found a wider difference: 87.5% of U.S. visits that season were individuals identifying as Caucasian or white, and only 1.5% were people identifying as Black or African American.

The Snowsports Industries of America survey also found a wealth gap. More than 63% of skiers and 55% of snowboarders had an income over $75,000, almost double the median earnings of Americans.

A family with young children on skis
As costs rise, family ski trips can get expensive. Smaller ski areas, like this one in Quebec, Canada, offer opportunities, but their costs are rising, too. Manonallard via Getty Images

Some resort corporations, including Aspen Snowmass and Powdr, have committed to increasing diversity and inclusion at their resorts. Powdr, for example, has community initiatives in its “Play Forever” campaign that include awarding scholarships to help people attend their camps and a partnership with STOKED, a nonprofit that mentors young people from underserved communities who are interested in board sports.

But among several other corporate-owned ski resorts, there is a noticeable lack of diversity efforts on their corporate websites. Eight resort companies included either no mention of diversity and inclusion or provided no evidence of initiatives supporting these efforts on their corporate websites.

The results suggest to us that the rising costs of climate adaptation will leave many would-be skiers and snowboarders unable to enjoy the sports.

Three tactics to improve diversity for the future

As the climate changes, management practices can also change to keep the slopes accessible.

One effective strategy is engaging and partnering with community organizations that focus on diversity and inclusion. By working with organizations engaged in the community, Powdr can connect with disadvantaged youth and introduce them to snowboarding and skiing, for example.

Ski resorts can also engage directly with nonprofits like the National Brotherhood of Skiers, whose mission is to develop and support athletes of color in winter sports, and communities that are underrepresented on the mountain to understand how decisions related to climate adaptation may have the unintended consequence of further entrenching inequalities.

Resort corporations can also improve their connections with diverse communities by increasing the diversity of leadership and creating senior leadership positions in charge of diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives.

By including diverse communities in the climate adaptation discussion, ski resorts have a better chance of achieving a future where snow sports are more accessible for everyone.

Brian P. McCullough, Associate Professor of Sport Management and Director of the Laboratory for Sustainability in Sport, Texas A&M University and Lance Warwick, Graduate student, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Super Bowl spot puts food waste in the spotlight, again

Read the full story at Food Business News.

Football game, half-time entertainment, commercials … there’s usually something for everyone when the Super Bowl airs. This year’s big game on Feb. 13 did not disappoint, with many of the companies and brands advertising speaking to a younger generation that fears for the planet and makes choices based on having like values and beliefs. That’s what Unilever, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, set out to achieve with its Hellmann’s mayonnaise spot.

Hellmann’s made its first Super Bowl appearance in 2021 with a commercial providing tips on how to avoid wasting food at home. This year, the brand continued that messaging by showing how mayonnaise is a great accessory to help people use leftovers rather than tossing food.