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Data reveals alarming, unprecedented new threat to young athletes: 'The body is being overworked'

"The environment in which today's athletes are playing sports is wholly different."

“The environment in which today’s athletes are playing sports is wholly different."

Photo Credit: iStock

For many young football players, the beginning of summer practices is a time of reconnection and bonding, as well as the opportunity to prove their talent with the hope of ultimately launching a college or professional career. 

Yet unprecedented, extreme heat has led to an increase in heat-related illness and fatalities, with young adults and teens especially at risk. 

What's happening?

As reported by the Guardian, there were 11 heat-stroke-related deaths of football players in the United States between 2018 and 2022, and over the past decade, instances of exertional heat illness have increased in young athletes. 

"With these young adults, all they want to do is make the varsity team, to come off the bench, to get recruited by the best college teams," Jessica Murfree, a sports ecologist at the University of Cincinnati, said. "They want to make their coaches and parents proud. And all that can be counterproductive if."

The summer of 2023 was the hottest ever recorded in North America, making the start of football practice even more dangerous. 

In the Southwest, teams either had to practice before the sun rose or travel to cooler locations, with the daily temperatures usually reaching at least 110 degrees Fahrenheit. 

"The environment in which today's athletes are playing sports is wholly different from the environment when their coaches were playing. Year after year, we're outpacing heat records," Murfree said.

Why is this concerning?

If trends continue on the same path, some locations may eventually be unsafe to live in.

The temperature of our planet has been consistently rising, with the increase occurring twice as fast since 1981. Data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration shows that the 10 hottest years on record have all taken place since 2010.

According to the National Weather Service, heat is the leading cause of weather-related deaths.

What can we do about it?

The activities of humans have directly contributed to the rising of Earth's temperatures. 

The use of oil and gas, for example — energy sources used for everyday things like fueling cars and heating houses — releases carbon pollution that can build up in our atmosphere and absorb the heat from the sun, thus adding to the overheating of our planet.

Thankfully, mindful adjustments can make an impact while also being a win for your wallet. Simply turning off electronics like computers and TVs when they aren't in use can reduce carbon pollution by thousands of pounds annually, while some light bulbs, including LED, last longer and use less energy.

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