At the end of the Seattle Reign’s game versus the Houston Dash yesterday, Dash player Rachel Daly suddenly collapsed on the field due to an apparent case of heat stroke. The game, being played in Houston, kicked off at 3pm CT in 90 degrees that temperatures that, once you factored in the high humility and lack of cloud cover, felt closer to 100 degrees. Due to these high temperatures, hydration breaks were implemented to help relieve the players from the swelling heat.

Hydration breaks are not a solution to excessive heat. They are more than a bandage haphazardly slapped on to the issue of playing competitive sports in excessive heat. They’re a cop-out. 

For summer sports in the United States, heat stroke is a major cause of injury to players that can easily be avoided. With parts of this country easily reaching the triple digits for three-to-four months each year, the potential for heat stroke can run for the better part of many sports seasons.

Baseball and soccer players are the most widely susceptible with their seasons largely running through the middle of summer. Late summer football, due to the amount of equipment players have to wear on the field, is easily the most likely scenario for a player to suffer heat stroke. With the growing trend of artificial turf fields, which absorb heat far more than natural grass, even warm days can put players at risk under the right conditions. 

The most infamous case of heat stroke in recent memory occurred in 2001 when, during an early August training camp, Minnesota Vikings offensive tackle Korey Stringer died of heat stroke. The heat index reported temperatures of 110 degrees during the morning workouts. 

Hydration breaks were first introduced to the pro sports world in 2014 when FIFA were forced to implement them during the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. Those guidelines, having one break during each half roughly thirty minutes in, have stuck and are the same guidelines MLS and NWSL follow. If the heat index reaches about 89 degrees, the breaks will be implemented into the game. 

Unsurprisingly, the breaks haven’t been well received. Funny enough, the Houston Dash have been critics of their implantation since the start.  Many critics, such as the Dash, have pointed to the fact that the breaks disrupt the flow of the game which is crucial in a sport that has previously had forty-five minute periods of constant play. 

While water breaks seem like a solution to excessive heat conditions, they are nothing more than efforts by pro sports leagues to maintain unsafe kickoff times. 

Saturday’s game, as a stated earlier, kicked off at 3pm CT. The game kicked off at such an odd start time due to the game being televised on the Lifetime Network. Lifetime’s NWSL time slot is locked in place, starting at 12:30 PST, for every single game during the season. Films like Give Me My Baby, which aired at 5pm PST last night, simply cannot be budged from their time slot in case of unsafe NWSL game conditions. 

TV contracts are ultimately why hydration breaks have been implemented. It’s much easier to appear to fix the problem rather than disrupting your lineup in case of unforeseen conditions that could harm athletes and fans arises. Weather almanacs are a thing. When the NWSL and Lifetime decided to schedule a game in Houston at 3pm CT in late May, they knew that the average high for May 27th was 88 degrees. They know that next month, when the Houston Dash play the Orlando Pride on Lifetime, that the historical average for Orlando is 91 degrees. 

Professional sports leagues should no better. Between 2005 and 2014, 93 high school football players died from conditions related to excessive heat. It’s about setting a standard from the top down. If in the face of sweltering heats, all pro sports leagues decide to do is give their players some more water, it sets a bad precedent. There already is a culture of delaying games when there is lightning in the area of the stadium. Hell, baseball games are delayed as soon as a speck of rain hits the mound. 

There is no discernible reason as to why yesterday’s game shouldn’t have been moved back into the evening to avoid the early afternoon’s sweltering heat. It’s not like someone had reserved BBVA Compass Stadium for later that day. Rachel Daly’s collapse falls squarely on the hands of Lifetime Network for having such a rigid time slot and the NWSL for allowing their players to play in dangerous heat conditions. 

It’s time to get rid of hydration breaks and start calling a spade a spade. The only thing that can mitigate playing in excessive heat is to simply not play in excessive heat. After all, imagine if players were played in freezing conditions and the solution to mitigate the problem was to have hand warmer breaks thirty minutes into each half. Sounds kind of silly, doesn’t it?