By Mitch Phillips
LONDON (Reuters) – Die-hard midfielders could lose up to three liters of sweat in a World Cup match in Qatar, but the rapidly evolving world of sports science is on hand to help players maintain their performance when in previous years they might have faded.
Although the tournament has been moved to November / December next year, temperatures will remain on average in the 20 degrees Celsius range, and conditions will still be very trying for many players, especially those coming directly from cooler regions and with only a week of acclimatization. .
A sip of water and an orange at halftime won’t be enough for elite athletes, where a momentary drop in performance, physical or mental, could be the difference between a life of glory or ignominy.
The deterioration in acuity and focus caused by dehydration is well documented, but it is only more recently that coaches and players have accepted the benefits of individually personalized products that replace key electrolytes and minerals lost by prodigious perspiration.
“In football, what you do before and after becomes more and more important,” Jack Wilson, sports and exercise scientist at the Porsche Human Performance Center based at Silverstone Racecourse in the UK, told Reuters. United.
“We are therefore going to make them aware of the need for a pre-loading with fluids and electrolytes, in particular with sodium. We will test the athlete’s sweat, taking detailed measurements, to understand what they are losing in their sweat and develop a hydration plan before, during and after their period. Focusing on hydration after a game becomes really important.
Andy Blow, a former elite triathlete and co-founder of Precision Hydration, a sweat testing and nutrition company, said football as a sport was a bit late for the party, but most large teams are now joining.
“I would say that over the past 10 years I have seen more teams start looking to individualize what they do,” Blow told Reuters.
“Football is certainly still, in part, a traditional sport, and there are people in the game who don’t want to embrace new technologies and new methods, but there is an increase in a breed of managers, of players and coaches who are very science-oriented and human performance.
“They’re the ones who are going to look under every rock to find something, and obviously, with the World Cup and the potential for it to be quite hot, that has focused a lot of that attention on the heat, the effects of the heat and then ways to reduce it.
“So besides hydration and acclimatization, I know teams and players are looking at things like cool vests and pre-game frozen drinks to help manage the temperature. even have their own Slush Puppie machines.
“When you take an ice cold drink before exercising in hot weather, it can actually lower your body temperature because that bowl of ice has to be turned into water, and the phase change from ice to water consumes a lot of thermal energy. “
The other major development showcased in Qatar will be stadium cooling technology – which mostly blows cold air onto the pitch – through different systems in different stadiums.
“No matter the temperature and the wind outside, even if there is a dust storm, the interior will be kept at 22-23 degrees C and with the best air quality in all of Doha,” he said. Saud Abdulghani, professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Qatar, told Reuters this week.
“The cool air is pushed towards the spectators, cooled and filtered and blown through the field and it is good air for temperature and humidity.”
As with any science, those at the cutting edge of technology are always looking to learn more. “What is constantly evolving and adapting is what we can do to get players to help them cope as best as possible – ways to acclimatize to the heat and ways to monitor athlete stress. by different technologies, ”Wilson said.
“So this is the space in which there is a lot of room for development that we are still seeing now, and we are testing a portable core temperature meter, which is different from the traditional means of measuring core temperature that might have implications for athlete supervision and athlete preparation.
(Reporting by Mitch Phillips, editing by Toby Davis)