Soccer is an all-weather sport and not even freezing conditions can get practice sessions and games rescheduled. Regardless of how bad the weather gets, scheduled games almost always come on even when the temperatures hit below 32 degrees.
This article answers the question “How Do Soccer Players Play In The Cold?” by discussing the tips and tricks players adopt to survive freezing conditions on the soccer field. We also reveal potentially dangerous health conditions playing in cold weather could expose them to.
How Do Soccer Players Play In The Cold?
Soccer players survive the cold by wearing extra layers of clothes, scarves, socks, gloves, and other apparel to enjoy more warmth during the game. Pre-game warmups and drinking warm liquids can also help players endure cold conditions on the field with minimal discomfort.
Most soccer leagues run throughout the cold season and escaping those conditions as a professional player is impossible. Finding ways to keep warm cannot only help players produce maximum performances but could also save them from potentially life-threatening situations.
What Are The Risks of Playing Soccer in The Cold?
Playing soccer in sub-freezing temperatures may be extremely uncomfortable but the following risks can be even more problematic.
Playing in the cold may lead to an increased risk of injuries. Muscles and joints tend to be stiffer during winter thanks to the limited blood flow. This becomes necessary because the body is forced to overwork to keep the internal temperature stable.
The limited blood flow in the joints and muscles increases the risk of injuries due to their declined efficiency and limited ability to react quickly in sports such as soccer. No wonder many soccer players pull up muscles when playing in the cold. (Source)
Feeling cold is inevitable when playing soccer in sub-freezing temperatures. While players eventually get used to the temperatures after the pre-game warmups, performances could be affected during the initial stages of the game.
The cold weather can affect the player’s ability to react quickly to situations which may lead to quick goal concessions that could tilt the game in the opponent’s favor.
Frostbites are a major risk of playing soccer in the cold leading to pain, numbness, and other physical symptoms like redness of the affected area. Players may experience sudden clumsiness on the field due to sudden stiff joints and muscles.
Even the best passers could end up losing possession easily giving the opponent the upper hand in critical areas of the game. An example is the frostbite injury suffered by the United States Men’s National Team goalkeeper Matt Turner in the World Cup qualifier against Honduras on Feb 2, 2022, in St. Paul. (Source)
4. Cold-induced Asthma
Playing soccer in extremely low temperatures can trigger cold-induced asthma among players with a history of the condition. The cold weather causes inflammation of their airways resulting in severe asthmatic attacks that may turn fatal when treatment is delayed.
This occurs when vulnerable players inhale the cold, dry airs resulting in tightened chests and incessant coughing that can trigger asthmatic attacks. The rigors of playing the game force most players to breathe through their mouths instead of the nose although the latter warms up the inhaled air efficiently before reaching the lungs. (Source)
Hypothermia is not common in soccer but should be watched out for among players, technical team members, and other officials on the playing field during cold weather. Signs of hypothermia include:
- intense shivering
- loss of coordination
- slurred speech
Players displaying any of the symptoms above should be promptly wrapped up in warm blankets before further treatment to increase their internal body temperature.
7 Ways Players Keep Warm During Games In The Cold
Here are the top ways some of the best soccer players on the planet stay warm when playing in cold weather.
1. Extra Layering
Soccer players go the extra mile with layers of clothes to keep warm during cold weather. The aim is to get as much of their bodies covered to prevent direct exposure to the cold dry air in winter. Many wear tight long-sleeves under their regular shirts to keep every area of the upper body covered.
Tights are often worn under their shorts to cover the legs in addition to long soccer socks that conceal the rest of the feet. Some players even wear double socks because cold feet can be a real problem when playing in subfreezing temperatures.
A pair of gloves are preferred to keep the hands cozy in addition to special cleats that provide extra warmth to supplement the protection offered by the socks. These additional clothes allow players to enjoy as much warmth as possible in cold conditions to provide maximum performance.
Fortunately, clubs supply the extra layers of clothes like the long-sleeved shirts and tight shorts to ensure players lack nothing in their bid to stay warm during the game. These extra clothes are often offered in matching colors to the team’s jersey to prevent confusion on the playing field.
2. Warm Liquids
Warm drinks increase the player’s internal body temperature resulting in more comfort despite the freezing conditions on the field. Many players report a boost in their morale after enjoying hot hydration during cold periods which often stimulates better performances.
Sugar-free hot chocolate, sugar-free coffee, and sugar-free herbal tea are popular choices for players during cold weather. Drinking these hot liquids also improves hydration throughout the 90 minutes on the field.
3. Pre-game Warmups
Just like the name sounds, pre-game warm-ups allow players to ramp up their internal body temperatures before the game kickoffs. The majority turn up to the field with extra layers of clothes as well as additional jackets to speed up the warming up process.
These warm-ups typically consist of light running and ball work to allow blood to flow through to the legs and other body areas to reduce stiffness. This lowers the risk of muscle pullups and other injuries that could result from the cold weather.
4. Acclimatizing To The Cold
Soccer practice, running, and undertaking other physical activities in the cold help players acclimatize to those conditions over time. This makes playing games in the cold less demanding on their bodies since they are physically used to those conditions.
Fortunately, the human body adapts to any situation over time and sub-freezing cold temperatures are no different. This explains why coaches insist on scheduling soccer practice sessions and even tryouts in freezing winter sometimes.
5. Apply Vaseline
Applying vaseline is one of the oldest tricks used by athletes to suppress the impact of cold dry air on their skin. Thick layers are typically applied to body areas that are exposed to the cold during the game.
The face and back of the ears are common parts where petroleum jelly may be applied while other players opt for vaseline on their arms instead of wearing long-sleeved undershirts. Players that hate pulling up their socks to the thighs may also apply vaseline to exposed areas of the legs.
6. Get Some Hand Warmers
The hands and feet are the most vulnerable areas to catching a cold during soccer in subfreezing weather. Sometimes, temperatures are so low that hand gloves and soccer socks are unable to provide the required level of warmth.
Handwarmers can keep the hands warm for extended periods throughout the game. They may also be fixed to other areas of the body to keep soccer players warm.
7. Warm Blankets For The Bench
Players sitting on a team’s bench need to stay warm just as much as those on the field. The good news is that there are no restrictions on how these players ramp up their internal body temperatures and warm blankets could come in handy.
How Do Soccer Players Identify Field Marks During Snowy Days and Nights?
Soccer fields are marked to allow the playing of the game within the confines of the field. Here are a few ways players identify those markings during cold weather when they are covered by snow.
Painting With Non-White Colors
Covering the field markings with another color other than white can promote easy identification during games on snowy days. Orange and Blue are usually chosen but other colors may also be incorporated when necessary.
Besides, referees make sure non-white balls are brought to the field during games on snowy days to enable easy identification.
Clearing Up The Snow In The Course of The Game
Some stadia have a crew on hand to clear snow from field markings during the course of the game. This ensures uninterrupted play in the snow by allowing players to see the markings perfectly.
Sophisticated Undersoil Heating Systems
Some of the best stadia on the globe feature sophisticated undersoil heating systems for melting snow that hits the pitch. They guarantee that the field markings remain clear and visible throughout the duration of the game regardless of how many inches of snow falls.
How Do Soccer Fans Stay Warm During Games In The Cold?
Soccer fans can be extremely vulnerable during games played in the winter due to the lack of physical movement, unlike the players. Many fans wear multiple layers of clothes like jackets and winter shoes to enjoy maximum warmth during game attendance.
Soccer fans are also allowed to drink as many warm beverages as they’d like and enjoy warm meals during halftime to keep the cold in check.
Conclusion: How Do Soccer Players Play In The Cold?
Soccer players adopt a range of tricks to play in the cold including extra layering, drinking hot liquids, and engaging in pre-game warmups to increase their internal body temperatures.
Training on cold days and engaging in other forms of physical activity like running in freezing outdoor temperatures sets up the body to be able to play in cold weather. Failure to wear the appropriate gear could expose players to frostbites, cold-induced asthma, hypothermia, and other health issues.