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J Athl Train. 2000 Oct-Dec; 35(4): 471–477.
PMCID: PMC1323377

National Athletic Trainers' Association Position Statement: Lightning Safety for Athletics and Recreation

Katie M. Walsh, EdD, ATC-L,* Brian Bennett, MEd, ATC, Mary Ann Cooper, MD, Ronald L. Holle, MS,§ Richard Kithil, MBA, and Raul E. López, PhD§



To educate athletic trainers and others about the dangers of lightning, provide lightning-safety guidelines, define safe structures and locations, and advocate prehospital care for lightning-strike victims.


Lightning may be the most frequently encountered severe-storm hazard endangering physically active people each year. Millions of lightning flashes strike the ground annually in the United States, causing nearly 100 deaths and 400 injuries. Three quarters of all lightning casualties occur between May and September, and nearly four fifths occur between 10:00 AM and 7:00 PM, which coincides with the hours for most athletic or recreational activities. Additionally, lightning casualties from sports and recreational activities have risen alarmingly in recent decades.


The National Athletic Trainers' Association recommends a proactive approach to lightning safety, including the implementation of a lightning-safety policy that identifies safe locations for shelter from the lightning hazard. Further components of this policy are monitoring local weather forecasts, designating a weather watcher, and establishing a chain of command. Additionally, a flash-to-bang count of 30 seconds or more should be used as a minimal determinant of when to suspend activities. Waiting 30 minutes or longer after the last flash of lightning or sound of thunder is recommended before athletic or recreational activities are resumed. Lightning- safety strategies include avoiding shelter under trees, avoiding open fields and spaces, and suspending the use of land-line telephones during thunderstorms. Also outlined in this document are the prehospital care guidelines for triaging and treating lightning-strike victims. It is important to evaluate victims quickly for apnea, asystole, hypothermia, shock, fractures, and burns. Cardiopulmonary resuscitation is effective in resuscitating pulseless victims of lightning strike. Maintenance of cardiopulmonary resuscitation and first-aid certification should be required of all persons involved in sports and recreational activities.

Full text

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Selected References

These references are in PubMed. This may not be the complete list of references from this article.
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  • Walsh KM, Hanley MJ, Graner SJ, Beam D, Bazluki J. A survey of lightning policy in selected division I colleges. J Athl Train. 1997 Jul;32(3):206–210. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  • Bennett BL. A model lightning safety policy for athletics. J Athl Train. 1997 Jul;32(3):251–253. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
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  • Cooper MA. Lightning injuries: prognostic signs for death. Ann Emerg Med. 1980 Mar;9(3):134–138. [PubMed]
  • Primeau M, Engelstatter GH, Bares KK. Behavioral consequences of lightning and electrical injury. Semin Neurol. 1995 Sep;15(3):279–285. [PubMed]
  • Andrews CJ, Darveniza M. Telephone-mediated lightning injury: an Australian survey. J Trauma. 1989 May;29(5):665–671. [PubMed]
  • Fontanarosa PB. Electrical shock and lightning strike. Ann Emerg Med. 1993 Feb;22(2 Pt 2):378–387. [PubMed]
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  • Cooper MA. Myths, miracles, and mirages. Semin Neurol. 1995 Dec;15(4):358–361. [PubMed]
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