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Sunday 25th August 2019

Crossing too many timezones affects athletes

9th August 2012

A new study has suggested that Team GB athletes not having to travel long distances to compete is giving them an advantage.


The BMJ study found that elite athletes who travel across more than five timezones to compete, more than double their risk of illness with the different germs and allergens of a new environment affecting them.

The authors say it is a common perception that international travel increases illness because of the various organisms in aeroplanes but say their study focuses on the fact that illness from travel is more likely to be due to the competitor being out of their normal environment.

And they say this could contribute to a home advantage for Team GB in the Olympic Games.

Researcher Professor Martin Schwellnus said: “The stresses of travelling seem not to affect the players because when they return home the risk of illness does not differ from normal.

“Changes in air pollution, temperature, allergens, humidity, altitude as well as different food, germs and culture could all contribute to illness when arriving in a distant destination.”

For the study, researchers tracked the daily health of 259 elite rugby players competing in the 2010 Super 14 Rugby Tournament. Over 16 weeks, teams from Australia, South Africa and New Zealand played in all three countries.

For matches played at home before international travel, there were 15 reported illnesses in every 1,000 days played but when players were more than five hours’ time difference away, this rose to 33 reported illnesses in every 1,000 days played.


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