FFA medical policy is always in the interests of players

Dr Jeff Steinweg, FFA's head of medical services, responds to the questions raised over the decision to go ahead with last week's Perth Glory v Central Coast Mariners game on a very hot day on WA.

The Hyundai A-League Heat Policy was developed with player safety being the sole consideration.

While environmental conditions are specified, this policy takes into account other factors such as the fitness of players, acclimatisation to heat and professional sports medicine and science support (for example with regard to hydration and cooling strategies).

Environmentally, there are a number of factors predisposing to heat injury, not just air temperature. In particular, the humidity, radiation and wind speed are also important. These four elements may be combined to produce a Wet Bulb Globe Temperature (WBGT).

When a WBGT is available, this is a more accurate assessment of heat injury risk than just air temperature.

For instance, the risk of heat injury is often higher with a lower air temperature and higher humidity than vice-versa.

The FFA Hyundai A-League Heat Policy is consistent with the American College of Sports Medicine-s Position Statement which suggests a WBGT of 28°C as the point above which a game should be considered being postponed.

FIFA recommendations for “playing in the heat- state “FIFA measures not only the air temperature but what is called the “Wet Bulb Globe temperature (WBGT). Risk is considered high with WBGT above 29.4deg C and extreme above 32.2°C. At FIFA matches, additional cooling breaks are considered when WBGT is above 31°C.”

FIFA does not comment on when a game should be postponed or cancelled due to heat.

FFA-s policy allows “cooling breaks” well below FIFA-s level of 31°C.

FFA-s policy also sets out a process to assess player safety, with collaboration between club doctors, match officials and the match commissioner.

Conditions for playing are not always ideal. We can empathise with players and match officials being uncomfortable in hot, cold or rainy conditions and there will always be a discussion as to where the line stands between uncomfortable and unsafe.

FFA-s policy has deferred to expert scientific advice from authorities such the American College of Sports Medicine and FIFA.

With respect to FIFA, FFA-s policy considers player safety at considerably lower WBGT levels.

FFA-s policy is to make an objective assessment on player safety in hot conditions - in the interests always of the player.

Dr Jeff Steinweg Head of Medical Services Football Federation Australia