Medical: Heat and Humidity in Football

On the 21st of December, 2015 in Dubai’s Grand Hyatt Hotel, the second Sports Medicine Symposium took place. The purpose as to discuss the impact of heat and humidity in sports and specifically football. The event was organized by the United Arab Emirates Football Association in conjunction with FIFA’s Medical Committee and Al Garhoud Hospital.
The United Arab Emirates Football Association is one of the first programs to prepare itself with FIFA offered medical services. Barcelona has also recognized that there needs to be more medical intervention during sports matches. Both associations realize that a player’s health should be of the utmost importance.
Heat and humidity can cause injury to sportsmen and women, and have a very negative impact on the games. These problems inspired the theme of the symposium that was to discuss issues that affect the United Arab Emirates and the Gulf region. This area is where temperatures and humidity are at their highest in the summer months when football is at the height of its season.
An audience of 250 participants came to the United Arab Emirates to discuss what could be done to protect the football players. One recommendation was to stage the games after sundown and introduce frequent water breaks during matches. It has been studied and proven that heat illnesses are entirely preventable if coaches take precautions to protect their athletes, and one of the best preventions of heat and humidity borne illnesses is hydration.
Coaches are urged to improve safety for a team by being more concerned with individual participants and their conditioning. For example, it is suggested that a 12-year old or even a 22-year old soccer player who is used to the heat and humidity may be perfectly fine playing in 95-degree heat. However, an overweight football player who is out of condition would find running and practicing football strategies very difficult and may be at risk of heat illnesses even on cooler days.
It is also recommended that coaches learn the signs of dehydration in their players. Dehydration happens when the loses fluids at a higher rate than the amount that is drunk.  Doctors urged guidelines for coaches that included watching players for signs of increased thirst, dry mouth, and swollen tongue, weakness, dizziness, and heart palpitations. If players are experiencing confusion, fainting spells or the inability to sweat, it is imperative you get them into a cooler area and hydrate them with cool (not cold) water.