Air conditioning keeps us comfortable, helps reduce allergies, and controls the humidity in our homes. The relief it provides is glaringly apparent for all of us who are living in Southwest Florida, but air conditioning is more than just a comfort – it also plays a crucial role in peak athletic performance.
Last December, the organizers of the Rio Olympics reversed a decision to make athletes pay for their own air conditioning in the Olympic athlete’s village. But why? There’s no question that Brazil can get hot in the summer, but athletes are used to competing in all sorts of conditions, right?
Extreme heat has a number of affects on the body that hinder athletic performance. When the body overheats, muscular endurance drops significantly. For athletes that compete in events like the marathon, triathlon, soccer, or other activities that require long periods of exertion, the heat can really take a toll on their performance.
Dehydration is another performance-crippling side effect of extreme heat. Athletes sweat when they play and heat can accelerate process. Even in more moderate climates, the effects of dehydration can be seen in professional sports. When you see a professional athlete go down toward the end of a game due to leg cramp, dehydration is a direct factor.
The dangers of extreme heat stretch beyond fatigue and cramps. High temperatures can also lead to serious issues like heat exhaustion and heat stroke. These ailments have more serious ramification than decreased athletic performance. Heat stroke can cause serious, permanent damage to internal organs.
The Olympics are supposed to be the pinnacle of athletic performance. The athletes need optimal conditions to perform their best and air conditioning is a key component to helping them achieve excellence. Luckily we don’t have to rely on the Olympic planning committee to be comfortable!