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Loughborough University academics continue vital athlete heat research

Many feet in a competitive walking race

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

The team, led externally by Dr Lee Taylor, (School of Sport, Exercise, and Health Sciences), will be in attendance at the upcoming the World Athletics Race Walking Team Championships, in Muscat, Oman, as the joint study evaluates heat preparation strategies and the body’s responses in elite race competitions.

This follows a similar project conducted at the World Athletics Championships Doha 2019.

Although temperatures are expected to be cooler in Muscat than they were in Qatar, athletes will still spend long periods exposed to the sun as the races will be taking place during daylight hours.

Working alongside race competitors, researchers will explore scientific knowledge on 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 will be required to complete a short online survey and then ingest a temperature measurement capsule (no bigger than a regular pill) before the event which will measure their core temperature during the races.

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

“It is always a pleasure to be invited to further develop existing collaborations with established prestigious external partners such as World Athletics. Our aim is to protect athlete health and performance, a key focus of being an IOC Research Centre,” Dr Taylor said.

“Equally, the successful hosting of the Championship and delivery of a research project alongside this is a pleasing step away from the recent challenges the pandemic has presented to elite sport.

“Furthermore, this is vital research into heat preparation strategies and the body’s responses to the heat in elite race competitions.”

The team also includes Chris Esh (School of Sport, Exercise, and Health Sciences PhD student / Aspetar member of staff), fellow IOC Research Centre Aspetar, Doha, Qatar, and Dr Diogo Leal from CIDESD at the University of Maia, Portugal.

Several senior figures from World Athletics have also been involved in the research project conception and delivery in Muscat. These include Dr Frederic Garrandes (Medical and Scientific Coordinator), Dr Paolo Adami (Medical Manager) and Stephane Bermon (Director).

The study is also being supported by a commercial partner, BodyCap – the market leader in e-Health solutions for exercise and occupational pursuits in the heat.

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

The World Athletics Race Walking Team Championships Muscat 22 will take place over the weekend of Friday 4 and Saturday 5 March 2022.