Scientist warns of impact of climate change on sports

May 26, 2023
Dr Jayaka Campbell
Dr Jayaka Campbell

A Jamaican scientist is warning sports officials and educators that they are putting young aspiring athletes and other future stars at risk by setting physical education sessions to coincide with the sun being at its highest.

According to Dr Jayaka Campbell, climate change is wreaking havoc, and some people are blissfully unaware of the potentially devastating health risks for sports.

"We continue to do things in the same way without recognising the challenges, because we are at the cusp of a massive shift, as our climate has changed and will continue to change, and now we are at the point where we have crossed into a new climate regime," he told STAR Sports.

On Wednesday, Campbell, who works at the Department of Physics in the Faculty of Science and Technology at The University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona, while speaking at the opening session of the Wet/Hurricane Season Caribbean Climate Outlook at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel, New Kingston, alluded to the risks associated with the long tradition of holding physical education (PE) classes about midday.

He argued that the sustained heat the country has been experiencing recently makes this a recipe for disaster, but people are failing to make the connection between climate change and its impact on their lives.

"We tend to have PE in the middle of the day, but there comes a point where enjoyment brings risks, and the 2019 Manning Cup season was an indication to us that we need to change the practice," he disclosed.

On October 1, 2019, the Manning Cup Group A game between Haile Selassie High School and Cumberland High was called off after a thunderstorm and heavy rainfall resulted in a waterlogged field. Tragedy struck afterwards when a Haile Selassie player returned to the field to retrieve a roll of tape.

After picking up the tape, the player reportedly took up a metal chair left by a spectator when a bolt of lightning struck him, rendering him unconscious. Frightened players and school officials were, however, able to get the injured player to the Kingston Public Hospital, where he regained consciousness after being treated.

Two weeks before, on September 16, the feature game between Jamaica College and Wolmer's Boys' School was called off late in the second half when lightning struck five players at Stadium East. The Inter-Secondary Schools Sports Association (ISSA), thereafter, brought forward the kick-off times of all games to 2 p.m. because of persistent thunderstorms in the afternoon.

The lightning strikes were at the peak rainfall season, which is now occurring outside of the traditional rainy periods, and ISSA officials had better start paying attention to the weather advisories, according to Campbell.

"The Manning Cup matches were usually held between 2 and 5, when we now expect afternoon showers, accompanied by so-called thunderstorms, to occur. There is something critical that people tend to ignore - that the lightning comes first, but we hear the thunder and sometimes don't see the lightning, so it is more accurately described as a lightning storm," Campbell said.

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