Sports Medicine

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Sports Medicine

Georgia Smith

Discuss the impact of climatic conditions on the body’s temperature regulation mechanisms and how they affect safe sports participation for athletes competing in the Tour de France.
The Tour De France is a multiple stage bike-riding event competed in France every year. Starting on the 2nd of July at Passage du Gois and finishing at Champs-Elysées on the 24th of July. It consists of 21 daylong stages over a 23-day period. Based on the Tour de France in 2011, the race consisted of 10 flat stages, 6 mountain stages and 4 summits finishes, 3 medium mountain stages, 1 individual time-trial stage and 1 team time-trial stage covering an overall distance of 3,430.5 km’s. Athletes competed in temperatures of 5°C to 31°C, and humidity of 20% - 100%. Conditions during Tour de France can change rapidly resulting in athletes to be prepared for thermoregulation demands and to counteract heat loss within hours. These conditions can make it difficult for athletes to aid temperature regulation mechanisms (conduction, convection, evaporation and radiation) thus affecting safe sports participation.

Conduction occurs when the body comes in direct contact with something that is a different temperature to the body. It’s worth 3% of the bodies heat loss. During the stage 8 of 2011, the sky is chaotic, storms & showers are unpredictable all day. The contact athletes receive with the rain and the wind in 12°C temperatures can result in a decrease in performance. The body during these conditions will be falling out of the core body temperature, initiating a series of physiological responses to rebalance the core body temperature. Preparing for these conditions is vital in the days leading up to the event. The team leaders will be preparing for these conditions, and will have athletes wearing certain clothing. Athletes will be wearing, gloves, arm warmers, skins, booties and most importantly layers of thin clothing. This clothing needs to be easily removable and still able to keep the athlete warm.

Similarly, convection occurs when a stream of air or water vapor is cooler then the body and comes in contact with the skin. It’s worth 12% of the bodies heat loss. During stage 13 of 2011, the Sunday consists of a sunny day but very windy, with wind reaching 70km/h. With wind at that speed athletes can be sorely put out by the strong gusts. The wind at that speed wills more then likely makes competing hard. With no proper preparations for these conditions athletes can be put in dangerous situations, resulting in crashes and body temperature falling out of its core. Athletes can use specific means to setback the chances of these situations. Athletes can wear sunglasses/goggles to stop the wind affecting their vision, arm warmers, leg warmers, gloves, and booties and similarly to conduction it’s a necessity to wear layers.

Evaporation occurs in hot conditions involving the body sweating and the sweat being vaporised, thus resulting in the body surface being cooled and the core body temperature being rebalanced. Evaporation makes up for 25% of the bodies heat loss. During stage 10 of the 2011 Tour De France, the temperature peaked at 31°C. These kinds of heat need to be prepared for; athletes need to be ready for these conditions in terms of clothing and fluid intake. Athletes need to be ready to aid the demands of the thermoregulation mechanisms and the core body temperature. A vital part of this is to sustain fluid intake, this means having prior knowledge to the amount of fluid that needs to be taken before the stage. Stage 10 consisted of a medium mountain range and so athletes were prepared to be thermo regulating greater due to this, thus needing more fluid. Clothing that athletes had to wear during these conditions would have been decided prior to the race, it would consist of lightweight helmets, sunglasses to protect eyes from sun, light weight clothing, easily opened clothes to help...
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