Sports Surfaces and The Weather

There’s no denying the Australian weather can be harsh and is full of extremes. With freezing winters particularly in southern states now which getting occasional snow and summers that are so scorching hot, and it’s only getting hotter. With the reduction in the ozone layer above our skies, many of us have become sun smart. Always wear protective clothing when heading outside, and remember to apply sun cream if we’re planning to be outside for prolonged periods of time.

Luckily sports clothing and apparel have also made leaps and bounds on mitigating the effects of UV radiation and heat in sports. Most new garments developed by major sporting companies such as Adidas and Nike have been constructed with a UV rating of UPF50+. The best thing is you would think to provide more shielding from the rays that the thickness of the material would need to be increased to form such a barrier. Thankfully this is not the case, and in fact, modern garments are thinner and lighter than ever, but are also more durable, and have specialized designs to assist in wicking away excess moisture from sweat, as well as increased ventilation.

Our bodies aren’t the only things that are susceptible to the damage caused by the elements. UV exposure takes its toll on all manner of things, including, vehicle paint, garden plants, house furnishings, and carpet, just to name but a few. If you’ve ever watched the Australian open another item affected by heat might come to light, and that is the sports surface on which they play.

Sports surfaces as well as the surrounding structures both absorb and radiate heat, which can affect athletes competing on these surfaces with issues like dehydration, or modify the manner in which shoes or tires can grip or how high balls can bounce. This radiated heat can last for hours, especially if the sporting stadium is constructed from concrete, which almost all modern sporting structures are. In fact, these structures can retain the heat so well that if you happen to see when rain hits them after a particularly hot spell it will evaporate upon contact and instantly turn to steam!

So what can we do to minimize the effects of these extreme elements?  Not to worry, like with most things technology has paid close attention to the way these surfaces react. The obvious example to circumvent extreme weather is to enclose the entire arena. While this will keep all the elements at bay, keeping an entire arena for a tennis court enclosed is far easier to achieve than that for a cricket or football pitch. Most importantly the roof needs to be high enough not to interfere with the game which is being played inside, and keeping a sizeable open space sufficiently cooled is not the easiest when the outside temperature is over 40 degrees Celsius.

This is why some stadiums have opted for natural cooling to be built into their design. The superstructure stadium Hazza Bin Zayed located in Qatar has ingeniously positioned, rotating geometric shapes on the exterior of the stadium, which rotates to redirect optimal airflow into the stadium and spectator stands. Other elements that are often cleverly utilized by stadiums include retractable shade sails, and fanned water vaporizers.

The manner in which heat affects the sporting surfaces within these structures has also been addressed. There are products that have been developed by the world-leading Advanced Polymer Technologies group, which have been designed with the specific function to decrease the amount of heat absorbed from the sun. Their patented COOLplus product is designed to reflect a significant amount of UV and is integrated into the synthetic polymer yarn used to create Artificial sports turf.

Another incredible product is their HydroChill. This technology functions in a similar manner to evaporative cooling by gradually releasing water, which when combined with moving air provides a cooling effect. It will absorb water either from rain or hosing and will allow this gradual evaporation over a period of days.  By combining these two technologies can produce a reduction of the temperature in playing surfaces by over 20%. Which is huge!

So when you next watch some professionals sweating it out on a sports court, try and keep your eye out for what cooling features are being used, and if you can see anything mentioned from this article!