Crossing 5+ time zones more than doubles illness risk for elite athletes

August 8, 2012

Elite athletes who cross more than five time zones to compete are around two to three times as likely to get ill as when they compete on their home turf, suggests research published online in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

The researchers tracked the daily health of 259 elite rugby players competing in the 2010 Super 14 Rugby Tournament.

In this annual tournament, 14 teams from Australia, South Africa and New Zealand compete over 16 weeks (February to May) at venues in all three countries, and in varying from 2 to 11 hours' difference from their own.

Games are played weekly to a international standard, accompanied by three to five weekly training sessions over the 16 week period.

The 8 team physicians were asked to complete a daily log of any that required for each member of their squad.

The rate of illness was calculated for 1000 player days, with the total number of player days across all the teams 22,676, based on squad size x days of play.

Throughout the 16 weeks of the tournament, 469 illnesses were reported in 187 of the players (just over 72%), giving an overall incidence of just under 21 per 1000 player days.

But the rate varied considerably, depending on where the matches were played.

For matches played on home turf before international travel, the incidence was 15.4/1000 player days.

But this rose to 32.6/1000 player days for matches played in locations that were 5+ hours' time difference away from home, irrespective of direction of travel.

For matches played on return back home after international travel, the incidence fell back to 10.6/1000 player days.

Almost one in three of all illnesses reported were (just under 31%), followed by gut problems (27.5%) and skin and soft tissue conditions (22.5%). Infections accounted for most of the reported illnesses.

There was little difference in the number of infections reported for each of the months, although there was a slight fall in incidence during April.

It has been suggested that air travel might explain the higher risk of illness, but if that were the case, infection rates would also be higher after returning home, say the authors—at least for respiratory infections.

"The results from our study indicate that the illness risk is not directly related to the travel itself, but rather the arrival and location of the team at a distant destination," write the authors.

They suggest that various stressors could be involved, including changes in pollution, temperature, allergens, humidity, altitude, as well as different food, germs, and culture.

Explore further: Three-fold risk of infection for elderly after emergency department visits

Related Stories

Three-fold risk of infection for elderly after emergency department visits

January 23, 2012
A visit to the emergency department during nonsummer months was associated with a three-fold risk of acute respiratory or gastrointestinal infection in elderly residents of long-term care facilities, according to a study ...

NCAA tournament math: More than adding up ones, twos and threes

March 12, 2012
Each March, the otherwise obscure field of "bracketology" becomes a premier discipline in the U.S.  As pundits and fans debate the 68 teams that most deserve to participate in the NCAA Division I Men's basketball tournament, ...

Recommended for you

Study finds walnuts may promote health by changing gut bacteria

July 28, 2017
Research led by Lauri Byerley, PhD, RD, Research Associate Professor of Physiology at LSU Health New Orleans School of Medicine, has found that walnuts in the diet change the makeup of bacteria in the gut, which suggests ...

Sugar not so sweet for mental health

July 27, 2017
Sugar may be bad not only for your teeth and your waistline, but also your mental health, claimed a study Thursday that was met with scepticism by other experts.

Could insufficient sleep be adding centimeters to your waistline?

July 27, 2017
Adults in the UK who have poor sleep patterns are more likely to be overweight and obese and have poorer metabolic health, according to a new study.

Vitamin E-deficient embryos are cognitively impaired even after diet improves

July 27, 2017
Zebrafish deficient in vitamin E produce offspring beset by behavioral impairment and metabolic problems, new research at Oregon State University shows.

The role of dosage in assessing risk of hormone therapy for menopause

July 27, 2017
When it comes to assessing the risk of estrogen therapy for menopause, how the therapy is delivered—taking a pill versus wearing a patch on one's skin—doesn't affect risk or benefit, researchers at UCLA and elsewhere ...

Blowing smoke? E-cigarettes might help smokers quit

July 26, 2017
People who used e-cigarettes were more likely to kick the habit than those who didn't, a new study found.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.