Physiological and Performance Responses to a Training Camp in the Heat in Professional Australian Football Players

in International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance
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Purpose:

To examine the physiological and performance responses to a heat-acclimatization camp in highly trained professional team-sport athletes.

Methods:

Eighteen male Australian Rules Football players trained for 2 wk in hot ambient conditions (31–33°C, humidity 34–50%). Players performed a laboratory-based heat-response test (24-min walk + 24 min seated; 44°C), a YoYo Intermittent Recovery Level 2 Test (YoYoIR2; indoor, temperate environment, 23°C) and standardized training drills (STD; outdoor, hot environment, 32°C) at the beginning and end of the camp.

Results:

The heat-response test showed partial heat acclimatization (eg, a decrease in skin temperature, heart rate, and sweat sodium concentration, P < .05). In addition, plasma volume (PV, CO rebreathing, +2.68 [0.83; 4.53] mL/kg) and distance covered during both the YoYoIR2 (+311 [260; 361] m) and the STD (+45.6 [13.9; 77.4] m) increased postcamp (P < .01). None of the performance changes showed clear correlations with PV changes (r < .24), but the improvements in running STD distance in hot environment were correlated with changes in hematocrit during the heat-response test (r = –.52, 90%CI [–.77; –.12]). There was no clear correlation between the performance improvements in temperate and hot ambient conditions (r < .26).

Conclusion:

Running performance in both hot and temperate environments was improved after a football training camp in hot ambient conditions that stimulated heat acclimatization. However, physiological and performance responses were highly individual, and the absence of correlations between physical-performance improvements in hot and temperate environments suggests that their physiological basis might differ.

Racinais is with Aspetar, Qatar Orthopedic and Sports Medicine Hospital, Research and Education Center, Doha, Qatar. Buchheit and Bourdon are with the Sport Science Dept, ASPIRE, Academy for Sports Excellence, Doha, Qatar. Bilsborough and Cordy are with Carlton Football Club, Melbourne, VIC, Australia. Coutts is with the Sport & Exercise Discipline Group, University of Technology, Sydney (UTS), Sydney, NSW, Australia. Address author correspondence to Sebastien Racinais at sebastien. racinais@aspetar.com.