FOOTBALL: A-League players have overwhelmingly demanded "safer" kick-off times when the summer heat becomes unbearable.
Ninety three per cent of players surveyed by Professional Footballers Australia - the soccer players' union - believed that the start of last weekend's match between Adelaide United and Wellington Phoenix, played in 38.7C heat, should have been delayed.
Despite the players' concerns, leading physiologist Megan Ross believes the Reds will effectively cope with playing in 37C heat in Canberra on Sunday afternoon against the Mariners.
Ross - who works at the Australian Institute of Sport and specialises in molecular biology, physiology and nutritional biochemistry - says players under the supervision of sports experts should acclimatise to the inferno-like conditions.
PFA chief executive John Didulica said Football Federation Australia should learn lessons from last weekend after Wellington Phoenix coach Chris Greenacre said two of his players showed obvious signs of heat stress at half-time of the 2-2 draw at Coopers Stadium.
"In reviewing the match with the players (from that clash), 93% of players wanted the game delayed last week," said Didulica, who added that some W-League players had also been part of the survey.
"That overwhelming view must be taken into consideration.
"In extreme situations, we would urge player feedback be sought prior to the match.
"They have vast experience playing in these conditions and a great sense of when such conditions tip from being difficult to dangerous.
"Last week we saw a clear disconnect between the objective measures and the reality the players faced."
This is despite Football Federation Australia's stringent heat policy measures, which allow science to decide whether the clash will kick off on time.
The "wet bulb globe temperature" - which is a composite temperature used to estimate the effect of temperature, humidity and solar radiation - must stay below 28C for the game to go ahead on schedule.
Ross believes dealing with hot conditions is all about preparation, saying A-League players who have often trained and played in hot conditions during the season should be able to cope with the sort of conditions expected on Sunday.
But she said it was vital to have experts on hand who could tell whether players were well prepared before stepping out onto the pitch in the inferno.
"These athletes are able to push themselves more so than club players," Ross said.
"They won't need to step out into the heat until they need to play.
"Players are highly motivated and train themselves harder and they actually can put themselves in a dangerous position if they get too hot.
"But it's all about the preparation.
"My recommendation for athletes playing in summer is to heat-acclimatise.
"You get that naturally, playing in the heat and training under those conditions.
"Players also need to be well hydrated going into a match."
Ross warned that club officials needed to be on the lookout for signs of heat stress.
She said athletes would show vital overheating signs, first by a dip in performance.
"You'll see players won't be able to run as fast," she said.
"And you'll see decision-making won't be as sharp, so it's knowing your players very well and keeping an eye on them ... they might stop sweating; that's the body going into survival mode."
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