With the temperatures plummeting and snow flying, fans attending football games are bundling up and finding any means to keep warm.
While fans in the stands can run inside to defrost, the Swede football team can’t surrender to the elements as they battle on the field in their playoff game.
The weather touches everyone at the game, but the players take the brunt.
ESPN’s John Brenkus and the “Sport Science” crew examined the impact extremely cold weather has on the body and the football.
Since the experiment was performed in a controlled environment, and because the series is filmed in Los Angeles, they used simulations to track the body’s reaction to 30-minutes of extreme cold.
Brenkus sat in a 10-degree ice truck. Before going into the truck, the lab team measured his grip strength, reaction time and core body temperature.
A little science, first. When we are exposed to cold temperatures, our bodies shift into survival mode. To keep the body’s core body temp elevated, our hearts pump less blood to our hands and feet, leading them to get colder than the rest of our body.
After 15 minutes of sitting in the truck, the temp of Brenkus’ hands was 35 degrees, which cut his grip strength in half. After 30 minutes in the truck, his core body temp remained the same.
How? The answer is more science. In extreme cold, the body burns glucose five times faster than in warm weather. This leaves less energy for our body to function at a high level. It also decreased Brenkus’ reaction time by 45%
So how does that information translate to the football team on the field?
Hand warmers in gloves and shoes, extra layers, and a little Vaseline to lock-in that body heat will go a long way.
Yes, Vaseline. It creates a barrier against the elements.
Some players in the NFL put cayenne pepper in their shoes. Capsaicin, the active ingredient, increases the circulation in your feet. The warmth will be felt depending on how heavy-handed you get on the sprinkle in your sock.
Mitts and capes on the sidelines, as well as lots of jogging and stretching, will help players stay warm.
But wait, there’s more. The ESPN team found a ball exposed to 10-degree temperatures for an hour got slightly smaller, with the diameter shrinking by .05-inches and air pressure decreasing by 20%. (Insert deflate-gate joke here.)
An underinflated ball has a lower coefficient of restitution. Big words to say that it is less bouncy.
Now, that information makes me think that the game will move more slowly and have a higher amount of errors.
The “Sport Science” guys said that it doesn’t, noting that punts travel only 3% less distance and passing percentage dropped only 2%. I’m adding in a special note about the field goal accuracy, only dropping by 1.7%.
So all this information to say the best way to watch the game in the stands is to wear layers, bring the hand warmers, use a little pepper in your socks and tell the concessions stand to stock up on hot chocolate and coffee.
Gothenburg’s winter weather is not for the faint of heart, and Swede fans have hearts of gold (and maroon).
This week, and hopefully in the coming weeks, we will also have some extra layers to keep that spirit burning strong.