Dr. Les Dutko, Ed.D, LAT, ATC
As a coach it is important to remember that all thunderstorms produce lightning and are very dangerous. Lightning deaths have been decreasing over the last 30 years; lightning still is the top 3rd killer in storm related deaths in America. During 2010 there were 29 fatalities and 182 injuries. Most victims of lightning strikes do survive they usually have lifelong debilitating injuries. Florida (49 deaths) and Texas (32 deaths) had the highest number of lightning fatalities and injuries in the country. This is mostly due to the fact that these states have the majority of fatalities because they have the majority of lightning strikes per year.
It is vital for coaches to realize that once the thunder is heard lightning has already struck and a lightning bolt can be up to 7 miles or longer in length. With this in mind coaches need to practice the following rules to protect their athletes from injury or even death.
- When a thunderstorm threatens, take your athletes to a large building, or inside an all metal (not convertible) vehicle.
- Inside a home don’t use landline phones, only for emergencies.
- If outside and no time to get to a safe building or automobile follow these rules:
-Don’t stand underneath a natural lightening rod such as a tall, isolated tree.
-Avoid hilltops, or near ponds, get out of the way of open water.
-Stay clear of tractors or other metal farm equipment or golf carts.
-Stay clear of wire fences, clotheslines metal pipes and any other metallic paths which could carry lightning to you from some distance away.
-Athletes should not stand in small isolated sheds or other small structures in open areas.
-In a forest or wooded area, seek shelter in a low area under a thick growth of small trees.
-When athletes are in open areas, go to a low place such as a ravine or valley; in these areas be alert for flash flooding.
-If your athletes are hopelessly isolated in a level field and you feel your hair stand on end, this indicates that lightning is about to strike, drop to your knees and bend forward putting your hands on your knees.
-The athletes should never lie flat on the ground.