If it is hard to breathe, then it is hard to play soccer. That’s the dilemma for teams and schools in the northwest as everyone deals with historic wildfires and the smoke from them which is drifting over hundreds of miles.
In Lewiston, Idaho a high school team moved practice to inside their gym. “Our biggest concern is the health of the kids and we want to make sure that they stay healthy so that’s kind of why we’ve moved indoors just to reduce the chance of them developing an issue,” LHS Athletic Trainer, Shannon Campbell told KLEW TV news.
Canceled in Spokane
In Spokane (even closer to the fires and smoke), players are also going indoors. “We had to adjust our practices and some go inside and monitor the air quality as much as we can,” said St. Maries Athletic Director, Todd Gilkey.
Concern about wildfire smoke pollution and the effect on children of breathing that smoke has led to cancellation of a large soccer tournament at Plantes Ferry Park.
The River City Challenge soccer tournament had been set for Friday through Sunday and was expected to draw 112 teams from around the region and Canada with nearly 1,700 players.
FC Spokane, the soccer club that sponsors the annual tournament, called it off to protect young players’ lungs, said Jody Reidt at the club office.
Washington, Oregon, Idaho, BC
Massive wildfires in the West have led to poor air quality across the region, causing respiratory problems for people far from the fire lines as well as grounding firefighting aircraft.
“It’s been a nightmare to breathe,” said Okanogan County Sheriff Frank Rogers in Washington state.
The Coeur d’Alene Sting Soccer Club canceled practices last Thursday through the weekend. On Monday, the club re-evaluated the air quality conditions and again canceled practices. Some players in the youth club have asthma or other conditions that make them more vulnerable.
“Like a lot of other sports, soccer is a vigorous activity,” club technical director Mike Thompson said. “We’re definitely taking the err-on-the-side-of-caution approach.”
Last Monday, the Greater Spokane League and other school officials found themselves drafting a policy they never thought they had to: What air quality is acceptable for players to practice in.
“This is unprecedented. We’ve never had this in Spokane before,” Herb Rotchford with the Greater Spokane League said.
After a bad stretch, things appear to be getting better today in Yakima.
What bad air does to athletes
Dr. Kenneth Rundell, the director of the Human Performance Laboratory at Marywood University in Scranton, Pennsylvania, said, “Athletes typically take in 10 to 20 times as much air,” and thus pollutants, with every breath as sedentary people do. He was the chairman, in May, of a scientific session on air pollution and athletes at the annual meeting of the American College of Sports Medicine.
Young athletes may develop asthma as a direct result of playing outdoor sports if they live in a community with high levels of air pollution, as suggested by researchers at the University of South Carolina. In fact, results of the USC Children’s Health Study released in 2002 indicated that children involved in three or more outdoor athletic teams that compete in neighborhoods with poor air quality have a three to four times higher risk of developing asthma than nonathletes.