THE HEART OF THE MATTER
a special program of the National Emergency Medicine Association (NEMA) 

Transcripts: 532.1 and 532.2

Week: 532.1 Guest: Jay Shoop, Head of Sports Medicine, Georgia Tech. Univ. Chief Trainer for Sports Medicine, Olympic Village Topic: Athletes handling the Olympic Heat, Part One of Two Producer/Host: Steve Girard

NEMA: Something that's coming to Atlanta, Georgia for the first time will combine with something that comes to Atlanta every summer to cause officials to take widespread health precautions...the Summer Olympic Games and the city's debilitating heat and humidity. We're talking with Jay Shoop, head of sports science at Georgia Tech and chief trainer for sports medicine in the Olympic Village....

SHOOP: Well, we know that Atlanta in the summertime is hot and humid...those of us that live here, work here, deal with it in football in August, and it is a problem...a lot of it will depend on which sport, duration and endurance type factors are involved. I think we saw extreme weather when the USA was here for the track trials...temperatures on the track were 112 degrees. I think, probably, pretty much you saw record times and there were world record times...and as far as performance and so forth, the athletes held up quite well, especially in shorter distances, because they trained for that. From the athlete's perspective, I think we worry much more about things like the marathon, which the time was actually changed due to the time of day and the extreme heat problems...and they're just going to lose more water due to the heat and the humidity.

NEMA: Is there a special regimen the athletes use to get ready for the conditions?

SHOOP: Well, I think hydration is a key component of this. The athletes are taught to drink constantly and consistently...I think that most of us as normal citizens drink when we get thirsty....that's really too late for the athlete. You really have to pre-hydrate, you have to have enough water going from the stomach to the cells...to the tissue of the body, so that your body's constantly hydrated and you just can't go too long to get in that process where one system's drawing up another, and that's when we start to break down, to have cramps and heat exhaustion type problems. So, again, I used the word acclimatized' earlier...to train and become conditioned to this weather, to this heat, this humidity. There are gonna be some misting tents and areas for distance athletes and endurance athletes to take advantage of, just to cool the body...but I think again, hydration is gonna be the biggest component there.

NEMA: Does the heat provide any advantages....perhaps preventing injuries because an athlete can get looser, quicker?

SHOOP: Well, I think that's probably a catch 22, I think definitely that you can get loose quicker, y'know your body temperature will get up quicker... that, in turn, will warm the tissues and so forth...but because of loss of water, you're much more prone to fatigue, you're much more prone to cramps, strains and things of that nature.

NEMA: The event which recognizes the "best athlete in the world" - The decathlon, actually includes ten events spaced over two days...do you think points totals will be affected...or will the heat perhaps allow a winning performance to come from back in the pack of competitors?

SHOOP: What we saw earlier was under extreme conditions, we saw very good performances earlier in some of the trial events...but it definitely is a problem...I mean especially in the decathlon, and top athletes, heptathletes. So far, the points have been pretty good. So,we're optimistic that won't be a factor.

NEMA: The Atlanta heat can zap your energy, make you dizzy and even give you a splitting headache...get ready Olympic fans! More on them in our next program. I'm Steve Girard.

Transcripts:

Week: 532.2 guest: Jay Shoop, Head of Sports Medicine, Georgia Tech. Univ. Chief Trainer for Sports Medicine, Olympic Village Topic: Athletes handling the Olympic Heat, Part Two of Two Producer/Host: Steve Girard

NEMA: The Olympics are here...and everyone hopes for peak performances from world class athletes, despite the intense Atlanta summer conditions. We've found, in talking to Georgia Tech sports science and Olympic Village sports medicine chief Jay Shoop, that the athletes have been in the Sunbelt for as long as a year, acclimating their training to the summer humidity...so they're ready for the competition. But the fans are another story....

SHOOP: The thing that the people of Atlanta worry about more is probably the fans rather than the athletes...because, I think people will coming from all over the world, climates that have low humidity, and some coming from very cool parts of the world to...if its a typical July and August in Atlanta, extreme conditions of heat and humidity, so we probably worry as much about the fans, the spectators, the visitors as we do the athletes. Although our focus here is on the athletes, ACOG in general is very much concerned about our visitors, and making sure that they know to get out of the heat when they start to feel weak and maybe dizzy, that they know to drink even before they become thirsty, and not to overdo themselves, because they will not be acclimatized, and they will not be conditioned, and we could have more problems there, I think,with the spectators, than we actually could with the athletes.

NEMA: I have this image of fans overdoing it, drinking a bit too much alcohol, sitting in the stands at the outdoor venues drinking colas...which aren't very good at hydrating you because of the caffeine in them...and passing out on the streets walking to the next event.....

SHOOP: That is correct, we are encouraging , of course, water....more than anything...some of the electrolyte fluids, of course, are excellent...but everything that you just mentioned is a problem, I mean alcohol, being a problem in relation to dehydrating, and again not being used to it, staying up late, not getting so much sleep, overeating...basically having a good time. Which everyone wants to do, but then going out into long walks between venues between competitions and so forth, will create problems.

NEMA: The Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games...or ACOG...has gone to great lengths to devise a wellness program for games attendees, which includes educating the fans about what they'll face at the outdoor venues, urging them to wear loose fitting cotton clothes, to take their own water bottles everywhere and wear wide brim hats. ACOG has also made easy access to water a priority...supplying water fountains, water stations, and huge containers with staff to help pass out water. The prevention strategy, at its most aggressive, includes opening triage stations and deploying buses as mobile cooling off stations when the heat index soars. Recent Olympic Games have visited Los Angeles, where people could get to widely spaced venues in their air conditioned cars...and Barcelona, Spain....which, while most of the city is not air conditioned, had a dryer heat during the two week span. Atlanta is different, because of the downtown area called The Olympic Ring', where many competition sites are clustered. Some are very close to each other...but others are a couple miles apart. If the heat index is really high, many people could have trouble making the distance comfortably.

NEMA: The Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games has matched the athlete's preparation in its approach to providing prevention information and techniques during what could be a sweltering two weeks for hundreds of thousands of people from around the world, trying to send them all home with a once in a lifetime...but safe...experience. I'm Steve Girard.