Athlete research heats up in Oman

Researchers from Loughborough University have once again collaborated with the World Athletics Health and Science Department to investigate the effect of heat on endurance athletes.

The team, led by Dr Lee Taylor, attended the upcoming the World Athletics Race Walking Team Championships, in Muscat, Oman, as part of a study to evaluate heat preparation strategies and the body’s responses in elite race competitions.

Working alongside race competitors, researchers explored tolerance to heat stress and heat acclimation strategies, to better understand the relation between core temperature, skin temperature, dehydration, and performance.

To achieve this, participants were required to complete a short online survey and ingest a temperature measurement capsule (no bigger than a regular pill) before the event to measure their core temperature during the races.

Before the event started, a second temperature measurement capsule was attached to participants’ legs so that skin temperature could also be measured. Participants were also weighed immediately before and after the event to measure fluid loss.

The research was also designed to help improve the understanding of whether skin temperature monitoring helps to make endurance races in the heat safer, as well as specifically addressing the effects on female athletes, which are largely unexplored and unknown.

Dr Lee Taylor explained: “It is clear that some athletes are able to tolerate higher core and skin temperatures far better than others, performing closer to their ‘best’ performance whilst others show marked reductions in performance.

“We hope to delineate whether this is:

  1. Due to gaps in their athlete support network (e.g. coaches, physiologists, allied-health practitioners) or their own knowledge of how best to prepare for exercise in the heat across long (e.g. months or weeks) or short (race-day) time frames;
  2. Not having completed recommended long- (e.g. heat acclimation/acclimatization) and short-term (e.g. cooling before or during the race) preparations alongside an understanding of why this was not possible;
  3. A combination of 1 and 2. 

“These insights are important to enable governing bodies, such as World Athletics, in providing the best educational resources to help their member federations prepare appropriately for competition in the heat and for the data to be available to practitioners to evidence-inform their practice.”

To read more about Dr Lee Taylor's research into the effects of heat, please visit our research spotlight: Harnessing the therapeutic potential of environmental extremes.