Tips for staying safe while playing sport in summer

Lots of people love to get out and play sport during the Australian summer months. However, it is important to think about how the heat will affect the body.

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playing sport in summer
Summer is a great time to play some sport, but you need to be careful about the heat. Photo: Famveldman, Bigstock

The Australian summer sees some extreme weather, most specifically in the form of dry heat. As the sun comes out, so does the summer sports competition and many of these involve extended hours outdoors.

The summer weather usually provides a great arena for the majority of sports as participants get to enjoy the outdoors, whether they are on land or in the water. Sun safety is critical to maintaining general health as is water safety.

Putting in place procedures to avoid direct sunlight, the ability to swim and knowledge of general water rules is important. Each sport presents its own variations of risks. However, players, coaches and officials can ensure their own safety by following a few key procedures prior to and during the sport.

Sun Safety

The sun presents one of the biggest dangers when it comes to sport in summer. Not only is the risk of sunburn greater at this time of year, but the majority of sports are also played outside. The first step to preventing sunburn and ensuring the safety of your skin and eyes is to regularly apply sunscreen.

SPF 50 sunscreen is highly recommended however, SPF 30 is acceptable if there is no alternative. This sunscreen should be sweat-proof and water-resistant. The sunscreen should then be applied every 2-4 hours as sweating and swimming increase the rate that it becomes redundant.

putting on sunscreen
Re-apply sunscreen every 2 to 4 hours. Photo: Sosiukin, Bigstock

To further reduce and chances of sunburn, it is recommended that you put zinc on the more susceptible areas. Whilst sunscreen is an efficient tool to reducing sunburn, the most effective method is getting out of the sun. During breaks, it is important to find shade.

Finding shade will reduce the risk of sunburn and skin cancer and give the body a chance to cool down. Heat exhaustion and heat stroke is common in the heat of the Australian sun so allowing your body to cool down during breaks is essential.

Wearing a hat and sunglasses is also an effective method of reducing the chances of sunburn. Both of these items limit the amount of direct sunlight that your body receives helping it to keep cool. Whilst it is sometimes difficult to wear a hat and sunglasses during sport, where possible, in sports such as cricket and volleyball, it is highly recommended.

Hydration and Heat

Beyond sun safety, preparing your body correctly for the vigorous of sport is critical to health. Dehydration can come on much faster during the summer months with increased sweating.

The increase in sweating clears the body’s water resources more quickly. Proper hydration should start in the many hours leading up to the sport. This ensures that your body is not at risk of dehydration, heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

It is important not to wait until the body indicates that it is thirsty because by this stage dehydration has already set in. The body is already 5%-10% dehydrated by the time that it is thirsty.

drinking water when playing sport
Be sure to always drink lots of water. Photo: Ttiburi, Pixabay

Increasing the consumption of electrolyte drinks can be helpful to maintain hydration levels and can encourage fluid intake. Wearing the appropriate attire can help to improve safety during the summer months. Light coloured and lightweight clothing allow the body to breath better and reflect the sunlight.

This, in turn, will help the body remain cool and likely reduce sweating. Ultimately, by wearing lightweight and light coloured clothing, the chances of heat stroke and dehydration is reduced.

Water Safety

With summer, comes an increase in water sports such as wake-boarding and water polo. As a result, water safety is essential to staying safe during summer sports. Knowing how to swim is a good skill to have and even more important when participating in water sports.

It is recommended that you take swimming lessons before participating in water sports, especially ocean sports where currents and rips are a factor. If you have already a good swimmer practice swimming in the surf prior to partaking in the given sport.

Beyond this, general knowledge of water safety is always important. For example, knowing that board riders have right of way outside the red and yellow flags is critical to maintaining your safety as a swimmer.

Whilst swimmers should always swim between the flags, if they find themselves out of them, it is important to watch out for surfers to avoid getting knocked in the head by fins. General knowledge of the water rules is essential to maintaining your own safety when in the water.

swim between the flags
Swimmers must always stay between the flags when in the ocean. Photo: Robyn Mackenzie, Bigstock

Final Thoughts

Overall, it is important that you do everything possible to protect yourself from the sun during sport in summer. The sun not only has the potential to impact your future life through skin cancers but it may also influence your performance if you become a victim of heat exhaustion or heat stroke.

Additionally, as water sports are increasingly popular in summer, it is critical to know how to swim and have a knowledge of basic water rules. Whether it’s in the surf, wake-boarding or water skiing this knowledge will help you to avoid hazardous situations with other boats and/ or people.