You never know what the weather will bring when playing outdoors. You can track the forecast throughout the week, but it can all change by the time you wake up the next morning. With these weather changes, there are a variety of dangerous environmental concerns to be aware of when playing baseball and softball. Here’s how to optimize every opportunity to squeeze in each game that you can without putting yourself in harm’s way.

Playing baseball or softball in cold weather

Spring and fall can be quite chilly, which can make playing outside early or late in the season challenging for athletes and coaches. In addition to cooler temperatures, the weather can affect the quality of the field. When the weather is cold or wet, the field may deteriorate more quickly than during warm or dry weather. Coaches and players should consider the field conditions, temperature and overall weather of every game, but cold weather creates some specific challenges.

Keeping baseball and softball players warm in cold weather

Players get a workout during baseball and softball games, so it can be easy to brush off the need to stay warm. But your muscles can become stiff and your body can lose heat quickly during cold weather, especially while you’re waiting for your turn at the plate.

Wearing layers is one of the easiest ways to help stay warm. Extra layers such as long sleeves and leggings are recommended if the air temperature is below 45 degrees Farenheit. An extra pair of socks can also help. Stocking hats, mittens, extra socks and jackets may not be practical when playing the field but should be considered when in the dugout or on the bench. Just be sure to towel off any exposed skin if you’ve been sweating.

Be on the lookout for symptoms of hypothermia

Although it is unlikely to happen in the fall or spring ball season, coaches and players should be aware of the signs and symptoms of hypothermia. Hypothermia is a dangerous condition caused by the body’s internal temperature falling below 95°F. Signs and symptoms of hypothermia include dizziness, shivering, hunger, nausea, increased breathing rate, difficulty speaking, lack of coordination, fatigue and increased heart rate.

The player should be removed from the game field if there is a concern about possible hypothermia. If there is not an enclosed building with heat, you can move them to a personal car or team bus. Any wet clothes should be removed and replaced with dry clothes. Give the player fluids and extra layers for warmth.

Stay hydrated, even in cold weather

It’s important to maintain energy with proper hydration even when you may not be as thirsty. Light healthy snacks are also helpful during practice and game play to maintain energy levels.

What to do when you see lightning during baseball/softball games

Spring and summer weather can be less predictable. These seasons bring risks of not only thunderstorms but also severe heat and humidity. In addition to taking the appropriate safety precautions, it’s important to be aware of league or tournament rules that pertain to weather conditions.

Lightning safety can be a controversial issue, especially when you are at a tournament or unfamiliar site. Coaches should communicate with tournament directors regarding lightning rules if there is a chance of rain. In general, umpires are responsible for making the call to cancel a game early and clear the field if lightning is visible.

If lightning is spotted during a game, players and fans should leave the field and move towards a covered building. Picnic shelters and restrooms are good options for waiting out a storm. Avoid being in areas of isolated trees or metal fencing found near fields and dugouts. Personal cars or team buses are the safest place if there is not an enclosed building near the field.

It's important to have a coach or parent be a designated weather watcher. This person will be responsible for following the weather forecast. Smart phone app stores offer numerous weather apps, which may provide you with access to a lightning detector at little or no cost. Lightning detectors can be helpful as they notify the user of any lightning strikes within a predetermined distance from the user. Lightning detectors can be a safer option than waiting until lightning is seen in the area.

General recommendations for lightning safety include clearing all fields and spectator areas for 30 minutes following a lightning strike. If there are repeated lightning strikes, the 30-minute timer will be reset after each lightning strike.

Playing baseball or softball in hot weather

The risk associated with heat and humidity is another reason to be properly prepared during your baseball and softball seasons. Late-season tournaments can be hot and muggy, but you can manage the hot weather and play safely if you’re prepared. 

The National Weather Service has guidelines for activity level and participation when the heat index rises. The heat index is the combination of air temperature and humidity. This should be taken seriously, and practice or games may need to be modified to accommodate for these conditions.

How to keep softball and baseball players cool in hot weather

Keeping cool is necessary to stay at peak performance during hot summer games. Cooling off between innings can be helpful to keep athletes from overheating. Luckily, there are a number of tips you can try to fight off the heat.

Hydration is always important throughout your season, but is key if you want to keep from overheating. Drinking a combination of water and an electrolyte-rich sports drink, like Gatorade, is the preferred form of hydration during competition. Try to start hydrating before the game begins, and take drinks throughout the game even if you don’t feel thirsty.

Another tip is to take rests in the shade. Sitting in a covered dugout between innings can keep you out of the sun. If you want to rest outside the dugout, keep an eye out for trees and other shady spots. If there aren’t any trees near the field, set up umbrellas or tarps to create a cooling zone for the players.

Using ice packs and cold towels can also help you cool down more quickly. Try freezing wet towels the night before and bringing them to the field in a cooler. You can place them on your neck or use them to wipe down throughout the game. Using a small towel in a bucket of ice water can promote faster cooling. Filling up small spray bottles with cold water and spritzing throughout the day can also be a quick way to refresh and cool down.

What temperature is too hot for baseball and softball?

Baseball and softball are best enjoyed in the lazy summer months, but how hot is too hot for these sports? Heat illness can be a concern when the heat index is above 94°F, and this can be affected by the humidity. Even a 2-4 degree temperature difference can increase your risk of developing heat illnesses like heat exhaustion and heat stroke.  

Signs of heat illness include heavy sweating; weakness; a thready pulse; and cold, pale and clammy skin. If an athlete exhibits any of these signs, they should be moved to a shaded or indoor area right away. A building or vehicle with air conditioning is preferred. Once they’re out of the sun, loosen their clothing and give them cool fluids. Also apply cool, wet cloths to their neck, armpits and inner thighs to promote cooling.

How to spot and treat heat stroke

Heat stroke, sometimes called sun stroke, is a more serious condition that causes your body to lose its ability to regulate its internal temperature. While experiencing heat stroke, the body temperature can rise to 103°F or higher. Body temperatures this high can damage internal organs and be life-threatening. Heat stroke is an emergency condition, and you should call 911 immediately if you or someone you’re with is experiencing symptoms.

An athlete experiencing heat stroke may experience many symptoms, including loss of consciousness, warm and dry skin, rapid pulse, lightheadedness, slurred speech, loss of balance and confusion.

After you call 911 for help, there are steps you can take to lower the body temperature as quickly as possible. Like other types of heat illnesses, move the player to a shaded, cool place – preferably with air conditioning. Loosen any tight clothing and remove heavy clothes, like sweatshirts. If possible, apply cold compresses to their neck, armpits and inner thighs or get the athlete into a cold bath. If they’re conscious, encourage them to drink cool or room temperature drinks.

Even in hot weather, the onset of heat stroke varies from person to person. In some cases, you may notice symptoms of heat stroke in 10-15 minutes. But others might not show signs of heat stroke for a few days after playing in the heat. Understanding symptoms and taking precautions to stay cool can help prevent overheating. Read more on how to treat heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

Other recommendations for playing in hot and humid weather conditions

Other recommendations for playing in hot and humid weather include wearing clothing with ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) over 30. UPF is a rating for clothing similar to the sun protection factor (SPF) rating of sunscreen. 

Speaking of sunscreen, it should be applied every 1-2 hours. Apply it more frequently if excessively sweating. Choose a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30.

And don’t forget to protect your eyes from the heat and sunlight. Wear sunglasses as much as possible to block ultraviolet rays from your eyes. One consideration for sunglasses when playing baseball and softball is to have safety-rated lenses which are more resistant to breakage or cracking.

Remember to check the air quality index

Just like how you should consider the temperature and the weather when playing baseball or softball outside, you should get in the habit of checking the air quality index (AQI). This measures the amount of pollutants in the air.

Good air quality is air that has few or no pollutants, while bad air quality contains a large enough amount of pollutants that can hurt our lungs. While air pollution isn’t good for anyone, bad air quality can be especially harmful to people with asthma; children, teens, pregnant women, older adults and those who frequently exercise outside.

The air quality index spans from 0 to 500. An AQI that’s 100 or lower indicates that pollutant levels are still considered safe. At levels 101 and above, the air quality is unhealthy. When the air quality is unhealthy, it’s important to stay inside as much as possible to avoid breathing in pollutants.

Learn more about the AQI and what to do when air quality is bad.

Where to get help when accidents happen

Preparation and awareness are key pieces to playing safe in all types of weather and environmental conditions. Putting these guidelines and tools into practice will help reduce the risk of preventable injuries. And, because accidents do happen, our sports medicine doctors are available to help you at TRIA orthopedic urgent care locations throughout the Twin Cities.