Current methods for estimating heat vulnerability of young athletes use a heat index (HI) or a wet bulb globe thermometer (WBGT), neither of which fully include the environmental or physiological characteristics that can affect a person’s heat budget, particularly where activity occurs on a synthetic surface. This study analyzed and compared the standard methods, HI and WBGT, with a novel and more comprehensive method termed COMFA-Kid (CK) which is based on an energy budget model explicitly designed for youth. The COMFA model was presented at the same time to demonstrate the difference between a child and an adult during activity. Micrometeorological measurements were taken at a synthetic-surfaced football field during mid-day in hot environmental conditions. Standard methods (HI and WBGT) indicated that conditions on the field were relatively safe for youth to engage in activities related to football practice or games, whereas the CK method indicated that conditions were dangerously hot and could lead to exertional heat illness. Estimates using the CK method also indicated that coaches and staff standing on the sidelines, and parents sitting in the stands, would not only be safe from heat but would be thermally comfortable. The difference in thermal comfort experienced by coaches and staff off the field, versus that experienced by young players on the field, could affect decision making regarding the duration and intensity of practices and time in the game. The CK method, which is easy to use and available for modification for specific conditions, would lead to more accurate estimates of heat safety on outdoor synthetic surfaces in particular, and in sports with a high prevalence of heat illness such as football, and should be considered as a complementary or alternative preventive measure against heat.
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