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Dr. John: How will cold weather affect the game?

5:27 PM, Jan 29, 2014   |    comments
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KUA - When it comes to playing football the weather can have a big affect on the overall outcome of any game. And for this Super Bowl, the cold weather at an open air stadium will be affecting players on both sides. But how much it changes each player's game depends on the individual player themselves. The most successful players in cold weather environments say that the best tool any player has during any cold game is their mental attitude. As they put it, everyone is cold even if they don't look like they are. But the ones that can put that aside mentally have the biggest advantage during the game. Players say that during a cold game they end up having less patience with others and can even put themselves into a bad overall mood. They also feel the pain from hits more than usual and if not careful can end up thinking more about staying warm and less about the nuances of the game at hand.

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But from the physical aspect that same cold weather can also have a huge affect on all parts of the game. Because the cold weather requires more of energy expenditure just to keep warm the body ends up having an increased energy need during the game. That energy needs to be replaced to keep the body in top shape so replenishing the body's energy stores with food or drinks will be needed during the game. Also, our bodies use oxygen less efficiently in the cold so muscles can build up lactic acid quicker. This can result in more fatigue and sore muscles. And dehydration is a big issue in the cold so it'll be important to keep drinking fluids to replenish what the body has used or lost. On top of all this, we also tend to move around more and jump back and forth during the game to just to keep warm. This can lead to quicker exhaustion and muscle fatigue, especially towards the end of the game.

When it comes to the running game, the cold can mean less strength and more strains. Because muscles contract slower in the cold, legs can be a little less powerful than normal which could affect the running game. Also, when players get cold the body tries to keep its temperature up by putting more blood flow into the core and less into muscle groups. This can not only sap the muscles of some strength but can also result in more strains. And keeping warm while on the sidelines becomes important to help prevent these strains and joint injuries.

For the throwing game the cold temps can affect the ball and the quarterback's accuracy. In cold air the ball becomes more dense and harder. This makes it tougher to grip and throw. On top of that the fine muscle control in the hands and fingers needed to fine tune the throw can be affected. Although at this elite level the differences might be small it could throw off accuracy just enough to make a difference between a catch and an incomplete pass.

The secret to all of this is to try and keep as warm as possible during the game. That means using the sideline heaters and overcoats whenever not on the field. Plus, going in with the mindset that the cold isn't all that bad can give any one of the players an important leg up on the others.

(KUSA-TV © 2014 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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