Follow these tips to keep athletes safe in lightning

Follow these tips to keep athletes safe in lightning


Follow these tips to keep athletes safe in lightning


USA TODAY High School Sports and the National Athletic Trainers’ Association have partnered on a monthly column to address injuries, prevention and related issues to help schools, coaches and student-athletes. Here is the latest column from Scott Sailor, the president of NATA.

Jun 5, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Fans leave the stadium seating areas for cover after play between the USA and Japan was suspended due to lightning at FirstEnergy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports ORG XMIT: USATSI-269380 ORIG FILE ID: 20160605_ggw_ab8_063.JPG

From youth sports to pros to international games, lightning creates dangerous conditions (Photo: Greg Bartram, USA TODAY Sports)


The school year is finally coming to an end. With more time to enjoy sports such as softball, soccer, lacrosse, baseball and golf, and with preseason football right around the corner, it’s important to be aware of the dangers of lightning to ensure outdoor safety. Of course, that also goes for activities such as hiking, camping, scouting events, swimming and even family picnics.

Lightning often strikes with little or no warning. Late spring through early fall brings the greatest risk, especially from afternoon to early evening. Tragically, lightning-related deaths occur each year, so it’s important for athletes, as well as coaches, parents and other adults who might be supervising an event, to remember these basic tips:

  • Don’t be fooled by a thunderstorm – just because there is no immediate sign of lightning, doesn’t mean it’s not on the way. Thunder is the sound lightning makes, therefore hearing thunder means lightning is nearby and a danger to those outside.
  • “When thunder roars, go indoors”* – remember this simple phrase. It sounds so basic, but it can save a life. Following the first lightning strike or boom of thunder, activities should immediately stop and everyone – players and spectators – should seek a safe facility.
  • Once indoors, stay clear of water (showers, sinks, indoor pools, etc.), as well as appliances, electronics, open windows and doors.
  • After the final “clap” of thunder and/or flash of lightning, wait at least a half-hour before venturing back outdoors. Every time thunder is heard or lightning is seen, the 30-minute clock restarts.

Advance planning is critical for anyone in charge of outdoor activities. Whether that’s a coach or designated parent, these additional safety protocols are important to keep in mind:

Identify locations in advance of an outdoor event – know what’s safe and what’s not: In preparing for an event, make sure to have access to a fully enclosed building such as a school, field house or library should the threat of lightning occur. A fully enclosed metal vehicle, such as a car or school bus also provides a safe environment. It’s important to know that picnic areas, bus stops, sheds, dugouts, open press boxes and garages are considered unsafe.

Take appropriate precautions: It’s unsafe to stand near open water, an elevated area or under tall objects such as trees, poles and towers. Also, golf carts and gator or ranger carts do not provide a safe place from the threat of lightning.

Institute a chain of command and assure the on-site person in charge has put all safety protocols in place: That individual should have keys to any buildings identified as safe places to wait out the storm and should make sure all involved are clear on who is in charge when lighting is imminent.

Keep an eye out for weather: Assign one adult to track the local weather for potential threats. That person should also monitor the National Weather Service before the event. If the weather is threatening, suspend or postpone the event ahead of time.

Taking measures in advance will help ensure a safe return to outdoor activity and an enjoyable summer. For more information on lightning safety, the National Athletic Trainers’ Association has created a handout on this topic:


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