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Beware of Lightning at Outdoor Sports Events

Seek shelter with the madding crowd

(HealthDay is the new name for HealthScoutNews.)

SATURDAY, June 28, 2003 (HealthDayNews) -- The next time you're at an outdoor sporting event, as a spectator or player, be sure the atmosphere doesn't become too charged.

We're not talking about the level of intensity or excitement. Lightning is the most frequent weather hazard affecting outdoor athletics such as baseball, football, lacrosse, soccer, tennis, track and field, and swimming, says the National Lightning Safety Institute (NLSI).

Lightning activity in the United States is at its peak in the summer, just when people are crowding onto playing fields and into stadiums.

The U.S. National Weather Service (NWS) says that over the past 30 years an average of 73 Americans have been killed by lightning and hundreds injured each year. Most of the deaths and injuries occur in the summer.

To minimize the risk of death or injury from lightning strikes at outdoor sporting events, coaches, umpires, referees and other officials need to stop the game or activity at the first sign of a thunderstorm, the NWS says.

That will give participants and spectators time to get off the playing field and out of the stands and move to a safe location before the lightning threat becomes more serious.

Safe shelters from lightning include fully enclosed cars or other vehicles, with the windows rolled up, and the inside of substantial buildings. Stay away from any outdoor metal objects such as flagpoles, fences and gates, light poles and metal bleachers, the NLSI says.

Stay in a safe shelter area until you're certain there is no more lightning. That means waiting for 30 minutes after the last lightning flash before you go back to the playing field or the stands. Don't go back before that time, even if there's sunshine and blue skies.

More information

Learn more about lightning safety at the U.S. National Weather Service.

SOURCES: U.S. National Weather Service; National Lightning Safety Institute
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