With sport competition across the globe currently on pause, attention has turned to maintaining athlete health and well-being.
In this week’s Experts in Sport podcast, host Martin Foster (Applied Sport Management Lead) is joined by Loughborough University’s Lettie Bishop, Professor of Exercise Immunology, and Dr Martin Lindley, Senior Lecturer and Director of Biosciences within the School of Sport, Health and Exercises Sciences.
The panel discusses exercise, immune defence and illness in elite athletes, training volume and intensity and its potential impact on immune function, and professional advice given to elite athletes regarding the current COVID-19 pandemic.
To begin, Martin poses the question of whether elite athletes are more susceptible to illness.
“There is a lot of evidence to suggest ‘yes they are’…it’s not the majority but it’s a significant group…respiratory and gastro infections seem to be the biggest problems. It seems to mainly affect those competing in endurance events, but team sports are also affected…the data that comes from the London 2012 Olympic Games was across all sports with no necessary pattern,” explained Professor Bishop.
“Respiratory infections were high in beach volleyball as well as long-distance events like you’d expect. It seems to be related to the athlete lifestyle and general behaviours of an elite athlete.
“There’s work out now which suggests that if athletes can’t train to their optimum – if they’re always sick and unable to train – they simply won’t reach their performance goals.”