Play It Smart When It Comes to Lightning

SUNDAY, March 24 (HealthDay News) -- Lightning safety is an important issue for people who enjoy outdoor recreational and sports activities, according to the National Athletic Trainer's Association.

During the past decade, lightning caused an average of 42 deaths a year in the United States and about 10 times as many injuries.

In 2010, outdoor recreational activities and organized sports accounted for 62 percent of lightning-related deaths, according to the National Weather Service. In 2011, those activities accounted for 48 percent of lightning-related deaths.

The National Athletic Trainer's Association has released a position statement that outlines ways to reduce the number of injuries and deaths caused by lightning strikes. It appears in the March issue of the Journal of Athletic Training.

"All individuals, particularly those who are in charge of sports and recreational activities, should be aware of the hazards, establish and follow appropriate guidelines, and ensure that those around them do so," statement writing group chairwoman Katie Walsh, of East Carolina University, said in an association news release. "Proper preparation and notifying participants of lightning danger is critical."

Coaches, athletic trainers, parents, administrators and others involved in outdoor athletic or recreational activities are urged to follow these lightning safety policies:

  • Create a lightning-specific emergency plan for each outdoor location.

  • Ensure lightning and general weather awareness.

  • Prepare planning protocols for large venues.

  • Be equipped and prepared to provide first aid.

Anyone involved in an outdoor activity should be aware that safety comes first and that there are no penalties or repercussions if they feel there is a danger of lightning and want to find a safe location, Walsh said.

The threat of thunderstorms and lighting is particularly high from afternoon to early evening between late spring and early fall, which is when 90 percent of casualties occur, according to the news release. July is the most dangerous month.

More information

For more on lightning safety, visit the U.S. National Weather Service.

SOURCE: National Athletic Trainer's Association, news release, March 18, 2013

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