Heat balance limits in football uniforms: How different uniform ensembles alter the equation

Tasha J. Kulka, W. Larry Kenney

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

63 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND: Scant evidence documents the physiological and environmental stresses for football players wearing partial or full uniforms, but such information would be useful for determining the ambient temperatures and humidities associated with uncompensable heat stress during practice and games. OBJECTIVE: This laboratory study used a physiological approach to determine critical heat balance limits (various combinations of ambient temperature and relative humidity) for subjects exercising in typical American football uniforms. DESIGN: Eight nonheat-acclimatized men exercised at 35% Vo2 max in a programmable environmental chamber. In multiple trials, either dry-bulb temperature (Tdb) was held constant and ambient water vapor pressure (Pa) was systematically increased, or Pa was held constant and Tdb was systematically increased. The critical heat balance limits were determined as the environments at which body core (esophageal) temperatures were forced out of equilibrium, reflecting uncompensated heat storage imposed by those environments. RESULTS: Critical environmental limits are presented that define the combinations of air temperature and relative humidity above which thermal balance cannot be maintained. These zones of uncompensable heat stress result in continuously rising core temperatures. Retrospective analysis reveals that documented heatstroke deaths in football players wearing full uniforms occurred at or above these critical environments. CONCLUSION: Heat balance limits can be used in decision making and are especially relevant for preventing heat-related illness or injuries early in the football practice season. The critical limits are expanded when shorts are substituted for football pants with pads.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)29-39
Number of pages11
JournalPhysician and Sportsmedicine
Issue number7
StatePublished - 2002

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation


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