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Health status, heat preparation strategies and medical events among elite cyclists who competed in the heat at the 2016 UCI Road World Cycling Championships in Qatar
  1. Sebastien Racinais1,2,
  2. David Nichols1,
  3. Gavin Travers1,
  4. Sebastien Moussay3,
  5. Taoufik Belfekih1,
  6. Abdulaziz Farooq1,
  7. Yorck Olaf Schumacher1,
  8. Julien D Périard1,4
  1. 1Aspetar Orthopaedic and Sports Medicine Hospital, Doha, Qatar
  2. 2Laboratory Sport, Expertise and Performance, French Institute of Sport (INSEP), Paris, France
  3. 3Laboratoire COMETE, Caen, Normandie, France
  4. 4Research Institute for Sport and Exercise, University of Canberra, Canberra, Australian Capital Territory, Australia
  1. Correspondence to Prof Sebastien Racinais, Research and Scientific Support Department, Aspetar Orthopaedic and Sports Medicine Hospital, 29222 Doha, Qatar; sebastien.racinais{at}


Purpose Assess the health status and heat preparation strategies of athletes competing in a World Cycling Championships held in hot ambient conditions (37°C, 25% relative humidity, wet-bulb-globe-temperature 27°C) and monitor the medical events arising during competition.

Methods 69 cyclists (~9% of the world championships participants) completed a pre-competition questionnaire. Illnesses and injuries encountered by the Athlete Medical Centre (AMC) were extracted from the race reports.

Results 22% of respondents reported illness symptoms in the 10 days preceding the Championships. 57% of respondents had previously experienced heat-related symptoms (cramping most commonly) while 17% had previously been diagnosed with exertional heat illness. 61% of the respondents had undergone some form of heat exposure prior to the Championships, with 38% acclimating for 5 to 30 days. In addition, several respondents declared to live in warm countries and all arrived in Qatar ~5 days prior to their event. 96% of the respondents used a pre-cooling strategy for the time trials and 74% did so before the road race (p<0.001), with ice vests being the most common. The AMC assessed 46 injuries and 26 illnesses in total, with three cyclists diagnosed with heat exhaustion.

Conclusions The prevalence of previous heat illness in elite cyclists calls for team and event organisation doctors to be trained on heat illness management, including early diagnosis and rapid on-site cooling. Some cyclists had been exposed to the heat prior to the Championships, but few had a dedicated plan, calling for additional education on the importance of heat acclimation. Pre-cooling was widely adopted.

  • elite athletes
  • exercise
  • exertional heat illness
  • hyperthermia
  • environmental temperature
  • thermoregulation

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  • Contributors SR, TB, YOS and JP designed the study. SR, DN, GT and SM collected the data. SR, DN and AF analysed of the data. All authors made substantial contributions to data interpretation. SR, JP and DN drafted the article. All authors revised the manuscript and approved the final version.

  • Funding This study was supported by the 2016 UCI Road World Championships organising committee.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Ethics approval The study was approved by the Anti-Doping Lab Qatar Institutional Review Board (E2016000162) and conformed to the current Declaration of Helsinki guidelines.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data availability statement Data are available upon reasonable request.