Heat-related deaths among football players across the country tripled to nearly three per year between 1994 and 2009 after averaging about one per year the previous 15 years, according to an analysis of weather conditions and high school and college sports data conducted by University of Georgia researchers.
The scientists built a detailed database that included the temperature, humidity and time of day, as well as the height, weight and position for 58 football players who died during practice sessions from overheating, or hyperthermia. The study, published recently in the International Journal of Biometeorology, found that for the eastern U.S., where most deaths occurred, morning heat index values were consistently higher in the latter half of the 30-year study period. Overall, Georgia led the nation in deaths with six fatalities.
"In general, on days the deaths occurred, the temperature was hotter and the air more humid than normal local conditions," said climatologist Andrew Grundstein, senior author of the study and associate professor of geography in the UGA Franklin College of Arts and Sciences.