Most but not all Texans coaches say they plan for climate change

Newswise – HOUSTON – (August 1, 2022) – A survey of Texas coaches and athletic officials suggests that many of them would be wise to think more seriously about the risks their students face with climate change, according to the Rice University researchers who conducted the study. A statewide study.

Rice climate scientist Silvia Dee led a survey of Texas coaches, coaches and athletic directors showing that while many are aware of the dangers of outdoor workouts during the height of summer, not all are prepared to adapt to hot weather. That’s worrisome, Dee said, given recent warnings that climate change is already making Texas summers hotter. For example, a 2021 report from the Texas Office of Climate Scientists said that Texans should expect the number of 100-degree days each summer to roughly double by 2036 compared to average numbers from 2001-2020.

Sending out a survey is one thing, but we need to think ahead and have tough conversations about what to do if it’s too hot to play football in the summer in the near future (or even now), De said. Assistant Professor of Earth, Environmental and Planetary Sciences. “I want to hope that just receiving this survey made these athletic employees think about the problem.”

The survey of hundreds of coaches and athletic directors at Texas high schools, colleges and universities found that most are aware of the dangers of intense workouts and strenuous events when temperatures over 95 degrees Fahrenheit can put athletes at risk of heat-related illness.

They noted that they closely monitor the heat, humidity, and wet-bulb temperatures and will adjust schedules as necessary. Surprisingly, however, some indicated that they do not acknowledge climate change or its effects on the health of athletes and their programs.

The results appear in a publicly available research paper in the American Geophysical Union Journal


The 22-question survey, organized and implemented by students during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, went to 4,701 email contacts, with complete responses from 224 Texas coaches and officials, 51% of whom coach football.

The study relied on state-of-the-art simulations developed at the National Center for Atmospheric Research to compare the temperature, heat index, humidity, and wet bulb temperature of Texas over two key periods: 1976-2000 and 2076-2100. The projections included estimates of high and low carbon emissions scenarios through to the end of the century.

They predicted average air temperatures, heat index values ​​and wet bulb temperatures would all rise significantly in the future with heat index values ​​regularly exceeding 113 degrees Fahrenheit in Houston, Austin and San Antonio, and exceeding 110 degrees in Dallas, even in low emissions. Scenario. In western and northern Texas cities, including Lubbock, El Paso, Midland/Odessa, and Abilene, maximum heat index values ​​could be 30 degrees higher than they are now.

Wet bulb temperature is the temperature of a portion of the air at 100% humidity, which is basically the point at which athletes—and others—cannot sweat to cool their bodies. According to one study, even the healthiest people will not survive a wet bulb temperature of 95 degrees for more than several hours in the shade.

“It’s very rare that you see humid temperatures on the newscast,” Dee said. “Although weather forecasts typically refer to a heat index (the ‘feel-like’ number that combines temperature and humidity), it is the wet bulb temperature that influences heat stress, heat stroke, and stressful heat illnesses.”

All survey respondents reported that they were aware of heat warnings issued by the National Weather Service, and 88% indicated that they took these warnings into account in decisions to cancel the practice. However, only 54% indicated that they take humidity into account when making decisions.

“This discrepancy suggests that there may be a lack of understanding among the athletic staff of how humidity affects perceived temperature,” the researchers wrote.

They noted that “sports personnel focused more on the effect of temperature and were more concerned about the effect of temperature rather than climate change.” 30% of those who answered “are not at all concerned” with the effects of climate change.

Dee noted that there are statewide guidelines that discuss heat illness risks for various sports activities. “But there is certainly no acknowledgment of future increased risks in any of these documents,” she said.

Dee said the athletes at Rice among her entry-level students inspired the project. “I asked them what they do when the temperature is 100 degrees and the humidity is outside. Where do you go? How do you deal with that?” She said. “This got me thinking it would be great to start thinking about the effects of climate change on student-athletes.”

The first pandemic summer of 2020 provided an opportunity to prepare them for employment through online training, and the collection of contact data for coaches and administrators in Texas. Besides designing the survey itself, she said, that took nearly two years.

To better understand the responses, Dee and her team at Rice teamed up with Kristen Neuterwer, a former Ph.D. A student at Mickey Hebel in Rice’s Department of Psychological Sciences and now a fellow at Texas Tech University who used to analyze survey data, as well as colleagues who study extreme weather and epidemiology.

“It’s no surprise it’s getting really hot,” Dee said. “But it was a little scary, in terms of the physiological limit, that there’s a lot of evidence that it’s actually too hot for student athletes to exercise safely outdoors.”

She and co-author Nittrouer are interested in a follow-up collaboration that goes beyond the athletic field.

“There is some interesting work to be done in this area,” she said. “A lot will depend heavily on our colleagues in the social sciences and humanities to think about how to communicate risk to people in a way that helps them change their minds.”

The paper’s co-authors are Rice Ph.D. Student Ibrahim Nabizadeh and undergraduates Chelsea Lee, Lizzie Gaviria, Selina Jo, Karen Low, Beck Miguel Saunders Schultz and Gargy Samarth; Stanford University, Emily Gorwitz; Jane Baldwin, Assistant Professor of Earth System Science at the University of California, Irvine, and Associate Research Scientist at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory; and Kate Weinberger, an environmental epidemiologist at the University of British Columbia. Nittrouer is an assistant professor of management at Texas Tech.

Rice’s Office of Undergraduate Research and Inquiry supported the research.


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