The temperature was expected to be around 30 C when the first game of the men's football World Cup was played in November. The average annual temperature in the country has risen by 1C since the tournament was first hosted by Qatar. How will the football players fare? Does the tournament teach us anything about how sport can adapt to a changing world?

The wet-bulb globe temperature (WBGT), which combines heat, humidity and other factors, is the most important measure of heat and athletes health. The human body's cooling mechanism is less efficient due to the high amount of water in the air. Playing sport in high WBGTs can cause the body to get very warm.

The World Cup will be played in stadiums that are air-conditioned. She says that it is still cooler on the field than outside.

Several stadiums have an open roof and so the players could still be at risk of heat stress. The training complexes at the World Cup are not air-conditioning-equipped.

Tropical animals

If they have time, players can prepare their bodies. The Dutch are preparing for the Tokyo Olympic Games in 2020. The athletes were tested in controlled environments at 16 C and then in conditions that mimicked the Tokyo summer climate. The performance loss was 25%. The team decided to expose the athletes to heat during training and found that their performance improved in the hot conditions. Eijsvogels says they're tropical animals. For football players from climates similar to those in northern Europe, heat exposure for 10 to 14 days is sufficient to acclimatize.

When an athlete is too hot, researchers are trying to find a way to cool them down. The hot person is the issue, according to the director of the Heat and Health Research Incubator. Jay and his colleagues have created a heat-stress scale that can give a simple measure of risk as the heat rises. One of the women's semi-finals in the Australian Open tennis tournament was paused to allow the stadium to be covered and cooled after the system was used successfully.

Ice towels, drinking cold water, and ice slurries can be used to cool the body. The game of tennis has regular 90- or 120-second breaks, which makes it easy to include these mitigations. It may be more difficult to engineer these breaks in football.

Climate change

As global warming sends temperatures soaring, the question of how to preserve athletic performance is becoming more important. The football industry has been urged to pay more attention to playing in the heat by the professional football players' union. Water breaks are being called for.

Eijsvogels said that amateur athletes have less access to acclimatization interventions than professional athletes.

Sport can continue in a changing climate with smart management. Expanding the conditions that players can safely play is what you are actually doing if you have a risk-management system in place that is evidence based.

The article was published on November 18th, 2022.

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