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Ask An Expert: How will cold weather affect athletes’ performance during the Super Bowl?

Ask an Expert - Stony Brook football stadium and stands

With the Super Bowl taking place in New Jersey this year, we know one thing is for sure: it’s going to be cold. Since temperatures are expected to reach a low of 29 degrees this Super Bowl Sunday, we wonder if the Seattle Seahawks and the Denver Broncos are going to be at a disadvantage due to the cold temperatures during the game. So, if they are, why?

Expert Response

Stony Brook UniversityNames: James Penna, MD; James Paci, MD; Brian Cruickshank, MD; Jennifer Castelli, PA-C; Angelo V Rizzi, PA-C
Capacity: Sports Medicine
Campus: Stony Brook University
Expertise: All of the experts are part of the Division of Sports Medicine at Stony Brook University. Together, they make up the health care teams for Stony Brook University, Suffolk Community College and Dowling College

James Penna, MD is an associate professor, the Director for Orthopaedics, and CAQ certified in sports medicine. James Paci, MD is an assistant professor and CAQ certified in sports medicine. Brian Cruickshank, MD is sports medicine fellowship trained. Jennifer Castelli and Angelo V Rizzi are both physician assistant certified.


Q: Will the cold weather impact the performances of the athletes in the Super Bowl?

A: The weather plays a significant part in an athlete’s performance, but the players must warm up and stretch to decrease the chances of injuries.

The experts explain:

SBU football player dives for the endzoneIn extreme cold weather, soft tissue tends to lose elasticity increasing the possibility of muscle and tendon injuries. Warming up and staying loose is a priority to avoid trouble. On the up side, the severity of injuries are often not as severe since its more difficult to really get moving as quickly and cleats do not bite into the surfaces thus allowing athletes to slip and slide instead of getting stuck and contorted.

Medical conditions such as asthma or reactive airway disease may worsen due to bronchoconstriction in cold weather conditions. Medical teams will encourage early use of rescue inhalers for these athletes, often warmed and humidified O2 will be made available as well.

If you’re like us, you’ll find it interesting to watch the sidelines, look for the jet-heaters and other strategies that will be employed to protect the players and keep performances at a high level.

Another fun activity can be looking for the overweight guys in the first row with no shirts on. They are at far more risk for the consequences of extreme cold than the players since the alcohol, which gives them the courage to paint a Seahawk or Bronco on their chest and stand out in the cold, is constricting the blood flow to their fingers and toes putting them at increased risk for frostbite.


But what if the Super Bowl was played in extreme heat?

Playing the Super Bowl in extreme heat could carry even greater risk. Any athlete playing in temperatures greater then 100 degrees are at risk for serious heat related problems such as heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Now throw 30 pounds of equipment, clothes and a helmet on and the risk is significantly increased. The medical staff would make sure to pay close attention to fluid intake before, during, and after the game.

Often in high stakes, high stress events, athletes will not complain for fear of showing weakness, the medical staff is charged with looking for many different signs of heat issues, such as decline in physical and/or cognitive performance. In case of emergency, ice baths would be available just under the stands for rapid cooling if necessary.

So, as it turns out, the weather does have an impact on the performances of athletes. And for those on the sidelines this Sunday, take precaution and dress warm!


Olivia Santo

Written by Olivia Santo

Olivia is a former student assistant in the Office of New Media for the State University of New York. She is an undergraduate direct and interactive marketing major with a minor in economics at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York, NY.

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