In the heat of summer, playing football at any level requires some extra care and attention to stay safe and healthy. Even pros are likely to suffer drops in performance when playing in the blazing heat. The unprecedented moving of the World Cup from summer to November to avoid the extreme summer temperatures in Qatar is a testament to this.
But even amateurs playing their regular weekly 5-a-side games need to take extra precautions. This guide is crammed full of useful tips for staying healthy and maintaining peak performance during the summer.
The Effects of Heat on your Body
Exercising in warmer weather places extra stress on the body. The mixture of high-air temperatures paired with humidity will quickly increase the body’s core temperature.
The body reacts to this by activating its cooling mechanisms. This means circulating more blood around the outer skin. This has two effects on those exercising – First, it means less blood gets to the muscles, which will seriously hamper performance on the 5-a-side pitch.
Also, because more blood needs to be pushed through the body, the heart rate increases to compensate. The problem is worse in humid conditions; high-humidity levels prevent sweat from evaporating, which pushes the body’s core temperature even higher.
Amongst the conditions and illnesses that overheating can cause are heat cramps, heat exhaustion, heat syncope, and heatstroke. The latter condition can be life-threatening.
Symptoms to watch for:
The most important tip of all for playing 5-a-side football in high temperatures is knowing the signs and symptoms to watch for. Amongst the common symptoms that players suffering from heat stress experience are:
- Weakness and/or fatigue
- Vomiting or nausea
- Lightheadedness or dizziness
- Irritability and confusion
- Low blood pressure and/or excessive heart rate
- Vision problems
- Excessive sweating
If a player is experiencing any of these symptoms, then they should stop playing immediately and drink plenty of fluid. In extreme cases, medical advice should be sought.
Tips for avoiding heat-related illnesses when playing 5-a-side football
Luckily, there are plenty of tips to help you keep enjoying your 5-a-side game right through the summer. The Irish summer might not be renowned for its blistering temps, but it is still worth paying attention to the tips below, both in terms of safety and to keep your 5-a-side game at its normal level.
Drinking plenty of fluids is the number one tip for playing any sport in high temperatures. Dehydration is one of the most common causes of many heat-related illnesses, and keeping hydrated should be a top priority when playing 5-a-side football in the summer.
Drinking plenty of fluids helps your body to keep sweating and, in doing so, keeps its core temperature down. It is important to remember not to wait until you are thirsty to drink, this may be too late.
Keep plenty of bottles of water available on the touchlines or behind the goal during the matches.
Use plenty of substitutions
Frequent breaks allow the body to cool down more. Try to utilise plenty of substitutes throughout the game, and if anyone looks like they are struggling, immediately remove them from the pitch until they are ready to go again.
Understand your fitness level
Knowing your limitations and playing to them is more important than ever when the air temperature is high. If you are new to 5-a-side or physical exercise as a whole, then your body will likely have less tolerance to playing in the heat of the summer.
It is important to realise this and make sure you take plenty of breaks, and don’t try and push your body past its tolerances.
Acclimatise to the conditions
Don’t rush out to the 5-a-side pitch on the first hot day of the summer, and expect to play at your usual level. However, you can be better prepared for summer football by introducing a little gentle exercise into your daily routine as the spring and summer weather arrive.
This will gradually increase your tolerance levels to playing 5-a-side in warmer weather.
For outdoor 5-a-side games, sunblock is an essential part of any kitbag list. In the short term, this prevents sunburn, which greatly decreases the effectiveness of the body’s cooling mechanisms.
In the longer term, wearing sunscreen reduces the risk of contracting skin cancer.
Wear Appropriate kit
Tracksuit bottoms and long-sleeved tops are fine for the winter months but should be avoided in the summer. Use loose-fitting and lightweight clothes in the summer and avoid dark colours that absorb the heat of the sun.
The Irish summer might not suffer from the constant and draining heat that other parts of the world cope with. However, the points remain valid, the fact is we do not have the same tolerance to heat as natives of hotter climes have, so it is important to look after yourself and remain vigilant on warmer days.
By following the few simple rules detailed above, it is possible to enjoy 5-a-side football all year round at our outdoor 5-a-side facilities.