Should I pull my team from the field when I hear thunder?

Dateline article| David Murphy|

by David Murphy

The answer is "Yes, Coach". No debate necessary, I'm afraid. Recall that lightning can travel sideways for miles. It does not have to be raining, or even cloudy for you to be at risk. Your players are on an open field, totally exposed, and are in danger as soon as thunder is heard.

Each year, we receive video here at Action News of what can happen if you don't follow my Coach's Rule (which is: pull everybody off the field as soon as your hear thunder). The pictures invariably show the prone bodies of children strewn about a soccer or baseball field, having just been shocked by a nearby lightning strike. Keep in mind that the charge from a bolt of lightning spreads out across the surface of the earth after it hits, as its charge is diffused into the ground. This is why multiple players are usually injured or killed by the lightning strike. Also, the worst injury occurs when a victim has two feet contacting the ground either inches or feet apart---the electricity enters one foot and surges through the body on its way to the other foot, causing serious shock and burns. Kids on a playing field are especially at risk because very rarely, do they stand with their feet together while playing sports. Of course, everyone on an open field is also a target for a direct hit from a lightning strike; even coaches!

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