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Heat and Humidity in Sports

Posted: Thursday, August 29, 2019. 9:39 am CST.

The views expressed in this article are those of the writer and not necessarily those of Breaking Belize News.

By Victor G Rosado MD.MPH: Do you ever wonder why, we as a country find it so difficult to improve our performance in any endurance physical discipline; whether it is running, cycling, football or triathlon. My observation is that we pay little to no attention to readily available scientific data in our training programs. One such area is weather conditions.

Last month, a coast guard recruit suddenly collapsed and died during the initial physical screening. Another was hospitalized the following day due to rhabdomyolysis, a severe breakdown of muscle cells that can cause kidney damage. Amazingly, the authorities of this event claim that there was nothing that could have been done to prevent this and that no change in the format for future recruitments are envisioned.

This past Saturday, I ran the annual BDF 10km race. Temperature at the start was 87°F and humidity was 78%, according to the Heat Index Chart this feels like 97°F and extreme caution is advised with prolong exposure or strenuous physical activity.

There were three water stations, where warm water bags were given. These were at mile one, mile five and mile five and a half, it was definitely a challenge to complete this race.

As humidity rises above 65% it is very difficult for your body to lose heat and above 75% it is impossible. Humans shed heat by sweating and letting the evaporating moisture carry the excess heat away, but when humidity is too high, your sweat does not evaporate fast enough, because there is already enough moisture in the air. The cooling process is therefore stymied and your body cannot lower its temperature. This is ideal condition for heat exhaustion or heat stroke.

French researchers analyzed finishing times of 1.8 million marathoners and found that ideal temperature for running a marathon is 43.2°F. All major marathons around the world are held in late fall or early spring. This is not a coincidence.

This week, the New England Journal of Medicine highlights research documenting recurrent bouts of dehydration as a major cause of chronic kidney disease. It is reaching epidemic proportion in Central America, and has been termed Mesoamerican Nephropathy.

My advice to the organizers of these events: start paying closer attention to weather conditions; hold these events in the cooler months of the year and during the cooler hours of the day. Provide enough and adequate hydration and cooling stations and have Emergency Services on hand that are prepared to deal with heat related events.


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