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Physiological effects of the environment on the athlete

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Physiological effects of the environment on the athlete As an athlete passes through an athletic career, numerous things happen which bring changes in his environment. In the early stages, the most common changes involve long, tiring journeys, sometimes combined with a stay for a number of days in an unfamiliar place. Later in the athlete's career there are more serious changes to take note of, and to prepare for. There are three environmental conditions that an athlete will have to learn how to acclimatize to, these are altitude, temperature and water. Altitude At altitude there is reduced air resistance, suggesting an advantage in activities involving speed, i.e. sprints. The force of gravity is reduced, suggesting an advantage where relative and maximum strength is critical. Some of the immediate effects of exposure to altitude are, increased breathing rate, increased heart rate, nausea, headache, sleeplessness and decrease in VO2 max. The total effect of these adjustments is a reduction of work capacity. The long term effects of continued exposure to altitude include, increased haemoglobin volume and concentration, increased blood viscosity, more capillary's, lower V02max, decreased lactic acid tolerance and reduced stroke volume. For short term training at altitude, the various benefits associated with it can be offset by other fundamental drawbacks such as, strange diet, different surroundings and homesickness. On return from altitude training performances at sea level appear to peak between the 19th and 21st day and then again between 36 days and 48 days performance improves. Temperature The ability to perform vigorous exercise for long periods of time is limited by hyperthermia (over heating) and loss of water and salt in sweating. Athletes should know the hazards of vigorous exercise in hot, humid conditions and should be able to recognize the early warning symptoms that precede heat injury. The circulatory system functions first to deliver nutrients to the working tissues and remove the waste products; and secondly to regulate the transfer of heat from active muscles to the body surface. ...read more.


The ice crystals that form will rupture and destroy the body's cells. The involved region turns a deep purple or red colour and has blisters, which are usually filled with blood. This tissue will have to be amputated to prevent infection from spreading to other parts of the body. health-pictures.com/ frostbite-picture.htm Hypothermia This is defined as a drop in the body's normal core temperature to 35�C or below. The condition usually comes on gradually and its severity varies in relation to how low the core body temperature drops. If it drops to 30�C or below this can lead to cardiac and respiratory failure that is soon followed by death. Methods of gaining heat in the cold When a person is exposed to a cold environment at rest, the body temperature attempts to prevent heat loss as well as to increase heat production. It does this via three main physiological mechanisms: - 1. Constriction of the blood circulation 2. Non-Shivering thermogenesis 3. Shivering First of all, the body will decrease the blood supply to the peripheral circulation by constriction of the peripheral blood vessels (vasoconstriction). The purpose of this is to keep the blood close to the body core and redirect the blood away from the body's extremities and skin surface, where it would be cooled down by the environment. Secondly, a person will experience an increase in their metabolic rate, which is brought about by a increased release of the hormones thyroxin and adrenaline. An increased metabolic rate will generate body heat. This process is called non-shivering thermogenesis. Lastly, a person will experience a rapid involuntary cycle of contraction and relaxation of skeletal muscles, which is known as shivering. The process of shivering can actually increase metabolic rate to 4-5 times above resting heart rate. Cold Acclimatization The main method by which an athlete can attempt to acclimatize to a cold environment is to increase their fat levels in the body. ...read more.


to be reduced, which will make an athletes performance suffer. If a person is exposed to a cold environment they may suffer from frostbite or hypothermia. There are three main ways to avoid these effects: - * Depending on the how severe the temperature is athletes such wear the appropriate amount of clothing insuring the head is covered as this the main point of heat loss. * The clothing should be appropriate as when the athlete exercises they will sweat so the clothing needs to be breathable to allow evaporation of sweat. * The time spent in the environment should be keep to a minimum. Altitude The underlying problem with high altitude (>2000 m) is that there is less oxygen and while this may not be that threatening to individuals at rest it does pose a challenge to athletes. Of course for the pure anaerobic events no adaptation is required so this discussion is necessarily focused on endurance training and competition. In general the higher the altitude the longer it takes to adapt. Understanding the adaptation process and the things that you can do to aid it will make for a less taxing transition. A number of physiologic changes occur to allow for acclimatization at high altitude. These can be divided into immediate, which take place over several days, and long term which requires weeks to a few months. Water When a person is submerged, their resting heart rate will decrease. This is a attributed to the pressure of water on the body producing central pulling of the blood. This extra pressure acts to increase the rate of blood returning to the heart, which will result in an increased stroke volume. This in turn produces a lower heart rate. Biography Web Sites health-pictures.com/ frostbite-picture.htm www.climate-cool.com/nzealand.html http://www.brianmac.demon.co.uk/environ.htm www.merck.com/media/mmhe2/figures/fg039_2.gif www.cas.vanderbilt.edu/. ../supplemental.htm Books Athletics Coach, Volume 30, Number 4, Page 8 Athletics Coach, Volume 29, Number 2, Page 25 Sport and PE, Advanced level study. Published 1998, Kevin Wesson, Nesta Wiggins, Graham Thompson, Sure Hartigan. London ?? ?? ?? ?? 1 ...read more.

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