Summer brings baseball, soccer, boating, golf, and other outdoor recreation… plus increased thunderstorm and lightning. Because most lightning deaths and injuries occur outdoors, this is a good time to review lightning safety guidelines, especially if you coach a team or are responsible for the safety of participants and spectators. The National Athletic Trainers’ Association states:
“Lightning is the most dangerous and frequently encountered thunderstorm hazard that most people experience every year. Due to the known high rates of occurrence of lightning during times that most outdoor athletic events occur, it should be considered a significant hazard to the physically active population. People involved in athletic or recreational activity are often under the direction of others, whether they are children or adults participating in organized athletics. Athletic trainers, coaches, teachers, and game officials should receive education about the hazards of lightning and become familiar with proven lightning safety strategies. A safety policy is only effective if it is enforced. Everyone should be aware of lightning as a threat, and those who oversee participants, whether they are responsible for health care or are coaches or referees, should be proactive in vacating all athletes and spectators to a safer location.
“Lightning can strike in the absence of rain, as well as from apparently clear blue skies overhead when thunderstorms are in the area. The lightning threat should be the only critical factor in the decision to postpone or suspend games and activities, not the amount of rainfall on the playing field. Athletic trainers, umpires, officials, referees, coaches, teachers, and parents can make a difference in reducing the number of lightning casualties…”
The Association’s position statement contains more information and guidelines. See: Lightning Safety for Athletics and Recreation.