Media release

Playing sport in scorching heat puts lives at risk

Climate and Health Alliance issues warning to AFL players and fans


Even the young and fit can suffer severe heat illness warns the Climate and Health Alliance, ahead of the Essendon and Geelong clash in Shepparton this weekend.

Large parts of Victoria are in the middle of a heatwave, with the Bureau of Meteorology predicting the temperature in Shepparton on game-day will reach 38 degrees.

Geelong Cat Mark Blicavs has suggested players will be fine because they’re all “fit young guys” but Climate and Health Alliance President Liz Hanna says playing sport in the heat can be deadly for anyone.

“Even the young and fit can die. While some players may feel they are acclimatised to playing in extreme heat, intense physical activity like football can increase heat generation ten-fold,” Dr Hanna said.

“The AFL must consider the risks to players, staff and fans – toughing it out in extreme heat is not a matter of bravado, it can be deadly.”

Temperatures above 30 degrees pose a risk of hyperthermia and heat stroke, a recent report from The Climate Institute on heat and sport shows.

The body’s optimal core temperature is between 36.2 and 37.2 degrees. If it rises above this normal range, hyperthermia can place stress on the heart, lead to dangerously low blood pressure, and can ultimately cause organ damage and death.

CAHA executive director Fiona Armstrong cautioned all Victorians to stay safe in the heat, and said sporting bodies would need to take further precautions as climate change worsened heatwaves and hot days.

The AFL’s current heat guidelines include increasing the number of water carriers to run fluids, lengthening breaks, shortening quarters or rescheduling games.

“If we are to avoid even greater extremes of temperature in the future, we must also take urgent action to address the causes of climate change. This is a matter of life or death,” Ms Armstrong said.

Concerned residents will be handing out pamphlets at the game, explaining how climate change relates to heat and health.

Media inquiries: Zoe Edwards on 0400 144 794

Climate and Health Alliance is a coalition of Australian health professionals and organisations that want to see climate change addressed through prompt policy action because of the grave risks it poses to our health.