How is Qatar’s temperature affecting World Cup athletes? KPE's Ira Jacobs explains

Image by Jishna Sunkara/The Varsity

The University of Toronto student newspaper The Varsity recently spoke to KPE Professor Ira Jacobs about the role of heat stress on athletic performance. 

After their first two World Cup games, the outcome of the Canadian men’s national team games is somewhat predictable. They’ll start off strong, with a high press, lots of energy, and ruthless attacking. Their missed penalty against Belgium and early goal against Croatia attest to this. However, as the clock winds down, the pitch gets muddied, and the distance travelled increases, they seem to be more sluggish, a shell of the team that you saw at the beginning of the game. Why is this the case? Why can’t the damn team just string together 90 minutes of good soccer? The answer to this question is fatigue — which can be exacerbated by the harsh Qatari heat. 

It seems like the air conditioning system Qatar has implemented is working, as the temperature during Canada’s game against Belgium was 21 degrees Celsius at the Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium in Doha, and 24 degrees Celsius at Khalifa International Stadium against Croatia. Typically, temperatures in Qatar reach 29 degrees Celsius in November. 

The Varsity interviewed an exercise physiology professor in the Faculty of Kinesiology & Physical Education, Ira Jacobs, to get a look into how athletes can beat the heat in Qatar. 

“When we exercise we generate a lot more heat than when we are sedentary, primarily as a by-product of the increased metabolism necessary to fuel exercising muscles.” Jacobs wrote  when asked about the effect of sport on body temperature. However, a stable body temperature becomes harder to achieve when the body is exposed to extreme heat. 

“The warmer the temperature around us is, the slower is the rate at which humans can transfer heat out of the body and it becomes increasingly difficult to stabilize internal body temperature at a safe level,” wrote Jacobs.

Read full article on The Varsity website.