June 28, 2022

Mitigating Effects Of Heat
On Sports Persons

With the global rise in temperature, sports bodies and athletes are turning towards science to make sure sporting events can be organized safely. There have been many instances of sports person collapsing due to heat. For instance, Callum Hawkins, a distance runner from Scotland collapsed due to Thirty Degrees Celsius heat during Commonwealth Games of 2018.


The problems related to extreme environments and exercising in such environments is being studied since 1930s. For several years now, athletes who are not familiar with taking part in sporting activities in hot conditions, do training in hotter climates as a means of acclimatizing themselves and reducing heat-related illness risk. However, more personalized and effective strategies for heat acclimatization is required.

Adaptation To Short Term Physiological Changes

In addition, organizers of sporting events should take necessary steps to reduce exposure to heat as well as offer rapid medical care when required. Sports scientist and physiologist are developing strategies that will help the body adapt to physiological changes of short-term nature and help reduce chances of premature fatigue in athletes. It will also help in lowering heat-related illness and problem of lower performance.

A decade ago acclimatization approaches were not that rigorous. For example, athletes used to travel to training camps in warm weather locations or exercise in environmental chambers that were programmed to recreate a specific relative humidity and temperature condition.

Controlled Hyperthermia

These steps focused on time spent in a certain weather condition. But, very less focus was given on analyzing how the body was adapting to such heat conditions. However, in last five years we noticed that researchers have considerably refined the methods. For example, a procedure known as Controlled Hyperthermia is used nowadays. In this process athletes perform exercises for 30 minutes for raising their core temperature to about 38.5 Degrees Celsius, which is over their natural healthy temperature range. After that, these athletes maintain this temperature for about 30 to 60 minutes. For this they either continue mild exercises or sit in the sauna.

These sessions continue over a period of five to ten days resulting in different physiological adaptations in athletes such as lower heart rate, increase in sweat rate, better comfort while exercising, and reduced resting body temperature. Such acclimatisation techniques provide correct results when they are part of personalized programs as per any athletes normal response to very high temperatures and understanding the thresholds for a particular athlete.

Steps Taken By Organizers Of Sporting Events

Apart from athletes, event organizers are also implementing various steps for reducing heat stress that athletes have to face. For example, organizers and sporting bodies are adjusting competition timings to ensure that those competitions are held at times of the day when the temperatures are cooler. In addition, organizers are also describing the conditions in which competitions can be suspended or moderated.

Steps are also being taken by organizers of sporting events to make sure athletes get proper care if they fell ill because of heat conditions. Research reveals that in case of heat emergency it is very important to cool down the sports person. This reveals that if an athlete is immersed in 10 Degrees Celsius water up to the neck then it helps to cool the person quite effectively. Such cooling should take place for 15 minutes or till the time rectal temperature of the sports person goes under 39 Degrees Celsius, before the person is moved to a hospital.