Can lightning strike a player on the field in a sports stadium...

…if it is surrounded by tall floodlight towers? There was a bit of a kerfluffle over at the World T20 cricket championships where English players complained that umpires had not taken them off the field soon enough after seeing lightning in the sky (FWIW, this also resulted in their team losing). My own reaction was that they were in no danger. The stadium was surrounded by floodlight towers that would have been struck, not the players. But I could be incorrect, so I thought I’d check.

IANA Lightning Expert, but I’d think that you’re right. Lightning would almost certainly strike the towers, not anyone or anything on the field below.

While it may be more likely that the light towers would be struck, it is certainly not impossible that it could strike the field. Looking at pictures of the field in question, the light towers do not appear to be all that tall compared to the width of the field.

A rough estimate of a mast’s protection zone is a 45 degree angle from the top of the mast.

So if any players are situated outside of the cone of protection then they were at risk.

BTW, a previous very old thread on the same topic.

Yes, it does happen.

If there’s lightning in the area, it’s absolutely not an overreaction to let players clear the pitch/field/what have you.

Also, even if there are tall metal towers nearby (not that it’s any real protection), yes, it is still possible for lightning to hit the field.

Note, you don’t have to be directly struck, either. If you check this NOAA page, simply being near a strike can be sufficient to cause injury at sporting events, including simply being near goal posts, metal fencing, or such.

Basically, don’t mess around with or try to outsmart nature.

Professional sporting venues are particularly dangerous because they usually have underfloor irrigation. Don’t know if the Chowdhury stadium has it though.

This reference mentions your angle restriction, but it also describes the “rolling sphere” idea that I’d heard of before. The idea is that you imagine rolling a 150-foot diameter sphere across the earth’s surface, and up/over asperities like antennas, stadium walls, etc. If the sphere would safely roll over your head without touching you, then you’re probably safe from a strike.

In the present case, this means that if the stadium is more than 150 feet across, then the people on the field are vulnerable.

Note that the reference is more for electrical systems.

If you’re within 150 feet of an antenna that gets hit, you can still absolutely get injured in one of several nasty ways, including large voltages from the electrical charge wanting to use you to get to the lightning pathway, direct injury from the shockwave, or pretty nasty hearing loss from proximity to the thunderclap.

A tunnel or other adequate cover is going to be better than near an antenna or other single tower or lone tree.

Lightning is so high in voltage that it really gets unpredictable. It just jumped through several miles of open air (normally considered a decent insulator) to strike the ground anyway, so jumping a few hundred feet to someplace you don’t think it should go isn’t really much of a stretch.

One thing to consider is that when lightning hits, the voltage doesn’t all go to a single point in the ground. The charge spreads out and you end up with these huge voltage gradients going across the surface of the ground. Basically, imagine a point where the lightning strikes as being somewhere around oh say a million volts, and some point maybe 50 yards away being 0 volts, and as you go from the 0 volt point to the million volt point the voltage where you are standing increases. A million volts spread out over 50 yards is going to be 20,000 volts per yard, so basically you can be half a football field away from the strike and still have a voltage difference between your feet that is more than 100 times greater than the voltage on the electrical lines coming into your house.

This video very clearly shows what can happen. You see the flash on the video but you don’t see the actual strike because it is off camera somewhere. Notice that quite a few players end up knocked for a loop but quite a few don’t. You can tell which players had both feet on the ground at the time of the strike.

Electricity of that magnitude has a change (albeit a small one) of throwing your heart into fibrillation. It's a very hit and miss kind of thing (exactly where your heart is in its cycle has a huge determination on exactly how sensitive it is to being disrupted like this) but if it happens the fibrillation state is stable (your heart won't come out of it on its own) and you'll usually die from it. It's also getting up into the range where you can suffer burn damage from the electricity, which can also result in permanent damage or even death.

The 150 foot safety sphere may be fine for rough probabilities, but lightning has gone into sealed cars and struck people before. Millions of volts is millions of strange sometimes.

Both the old thread and the NOAA page recount incidents that are dissimilar to the case of a stadium that has tall metal towers around it. Has there ever been an incident of lightning striking a person on the ground when there is a tall metal tower very close to them?

The video you link to also seems to be just an open football field, with some bleachers for the audience to sit. On an open field I would certainly agree that the risk of lightning hitting a player or say a goalpost is high. But in a stadium with floodlight towers and high seating stands around it? Even assuming that there’s a gradient around the base of the tower where the voltage is high, the players would still be safe, since they’re not very close to those areas.

I have been struck by lightning twice in my life. Had many strikes nearby. Many strikes on the planes I was flying. My Dad had ball lightning roll over his car. Been in water when lightning stuck somewhat close.

IMO, anyone who says that this or that will be safe needs to go be in that place when the lightning does not play nice or by the rules.

Don’t mess with it or think you have a perfect answer.

IMO !!!

There is a video I’ll have to track down showing a person being struck and killed in the old Washington Redskins Stadium. It appears to be a leader rather than a direct stroke. The person was on the infield, stadium was two seating areas high with light stantions above those.

I first saw the video attached to a lightning protection presentation somewhere. Off to google.

It is possible for lightning to come out a clear blue sky, I saw it happen to a radio transmission tower whose ground had been temporarily disconnected by an engineer. So, I would conclude that the risk of a golfer being struck by lightning on a clear sunny day is at least as high as the risk to an athlete on the field in a stadium with a high seating profile and/or light standards. when visible lightning is occurring in the area.

I couldn’t find video but did find this.

How do you reach that conclusion without any discussion of the actual probability? “This is physically possible. Therefore, it is just as likely as that.” :dubious:

Here are some photos of lightning missing tall things and hitting the ground or shorter things. Here is the Washington Monument being missed by lightning.

Lightning originates high in the cloud and doesn’t know where it’s going to hit. Taller objects are more likely to get hit, but only if because the air gap between it and the object is easier to bridge than the air gap to something else. Here is a pretty good demonstration. If it comes straight down into a stadium, it’s likely that the ground or a player will be closer than the light towers.

I’m not familiar with the cricket situation, but the adage “if you can hear thunder, you’re in danger of being struck by lightning” is true. You can generally hear thunder 10 miles away and that’s about the distance lightning can travel horizontally.

Then there’s positive lightning. 95% of lightning is negatively charged, but 5% is positively charged and it’s 10 times more powerful. Positive lightning originates high in the storm and storms come from cumulonimbus clouds which are anvil shaped, so even if the storm is miles away, the top of the anvil can be closer. Positive lightning strikes are the “bolt from the blue” that literally strike far from a storm, often while the sky is blue, and they cause a lot more damage when they do.

“At least as high” is not a difficult estimation to make when not in possession of extensive statistical data of your “actual probability”. I’ll bet that every day, you make dozens of choices “without any discussion of the actual probability” of the outcome of your decisions.

Goalposts aren’t good enough? Seriously? Those examples showed problems merely being NEAR lightning strikes. Direct hits weren’t even necessary to maim or kill people.

You don’t have to be directly hit for there to be a problem. If you are at risk of serious injury by simply existing within the vicinity of a lightning strike, then by definition, being “very close” to a lightning rod (or towers or whatever) doesn’t make you safe. At best, it somewhat mitigates the risk. It doesn’t eliminate the risk at all.

People can be killed INDOORS by lightning (see Snopes here).

So, it is far from an overreaction to want to maximize safety when lightning is in the vicinity, tall towers or no. It fills me with a type of resigned dread that people continue to underestimate a natural phenomenon with such a long and established history of killing people in a wide variety of situations.

People want to predict what lightning will do? Have at it. I’ll be inside.

Here’s apicture of the stadium. There’s no way I’d want to be out in the middle in a lightening storm.