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Mitigating the risk of heat-related injury
  1. Caroline F Finch1,
  2. Songshan (Sam) Huang2,
  3. Prasanna Gamage3
  1. 1 Chancellery, Edith Cowan University, Joondalup, Western Australia, Australia
  2. 2 School of Business and Law, Edith Cowan University, Joondalup, Western Australia, Australia
  3. 3 MP Sports Physicians, Narre Warren, Victoria, Australia
  1. Correspondence to Professor Caroline F Finch, Chancellery, Edith Cowan University, Joondalup, WA 6027, Australia; c.finch{at}

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There is a call for a global approach to addressing the climate crisis and its potential for adverse impacts on human health.1 Injury prevention experts have long recognised extreme heat, sun exposure and other climate effects to be important causes of injury, given the external factors that are implicated in their causation.2 Injury prevention issues around heat-related causes have become more prominent recently under the premise of climate emergency3 and frequent occurrence of heatwaves due to climate change.4

Heat-related injury (sometimes also known as environmental heat stress or exertional heat illness) occurs when the body’s physiological balance is interrupted due to more heat gain than heat loss. External factors that are often implicated are (a) exercising in high ambient temperatures; (b) heat wave conditions that particularly affect older, younger or medically comprised people; (c) high humidity conditions that limit sweat evaporation from the body and heat loss; (d) direct sun exposure and lack of shade and (e) a lack of wind or breeze to cool the body. The contribution of these factors becomes amplified when people are active outdoors.5 6

The potential for climate change, especially heatwaves, to adversely impact physically active populations has been recognised for at least a couple of decades.7 Our recent systematic review found that 7% of all reported injuries and medical conditions in sport were related to exertional heat illness, with the rates being highest in endurance sports such as marathons.8 Heat-related injuries have been identified as a major cause of sport and outdoor recreation-related deaths,9 fatal drownings10 …

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  • Contributors All authors provided content in the text above and the associated conference presentation. They provided critical comments during the preparation for this manuscript. All authors have approved its submission.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests CFF is the editor-in-chief of BMJ Injury Prevention.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; internally peer reviewed.