Football Sport

Managing time difference, jet lag in sport

Doctor’s corner with DR JOSEPH KABUNGO
THE Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games are over and focus has shifted to the 2018 Russia World Cup qualifiers.
Winning does not only end with a good training programme but goes beyond that aspect.
A team with poor travel arrangements cannot be expected to be 100 percent prepared.
A couple of days ago, I met former world 400m hurdles champion Samuel Matete.
Matete highlighted the importance of planning.
He was spot on having been a successful athlete.
I agreed with him and my wish is that administrators from various sports disciplines could think outside the box and consider preparation including travel as an important element in achieving success.
The physical, technical and mental preparedness for competition cannot be over emphasised.
Jet lag is one issue that people raise when a team travels.
Sports men who participated in the Olympic Games had to do a lot in terms of planning.
One of the important issues was the travel arrangements especially those teams from Europe, Africa and Asia.
Many teams set up training camps in the United States of America to avoid jet lag.
Flying or travelling for long hours has an effect on the hydration status of sportsmen and also poses a big challenge regarding optimal nutritional requirements.
In an athlete preparing for competition, sleep is one of the measures to enhance recovery.
Air travel is complicated by the enormous flight connections.
Not only will a team fight effects of long hours of flying but has to deal with different weather pattern.
It is important that as a team is preparing to compete in far off places, a plan should be put in place to avoid fatigue and jet lag.
Travel fatigue refers to the feeling of tiredness and stiffness due to travelling for a long time.
It can occur during air travel in the northerly or southerly directions or after long road journeys by car, bus or coach.
This can easily be reversed through rest, combined with light exercises and a shower or a short time of sleep.
In contrast, jet lag refers to symptoms that accompany flights across multiple time zones.
The condition is more robust than travel fatigue and is caused by a desynchronisation of the circadian rhythm, in other words a disturbance of the body clock.
The main symptoms of jet lag are tiredness and unable to sleep at night.
If a team travels eastwards there will be delay in onset of sleep because travelling eastwards results in gaining of time and the body clock cannot adjust to suit the new environment.
If the travel is westwards for example from Lusaka to Detroit, the awakening time will be early and all this will culminate in the body not having enough rest.
The other significant finding in jet lag is attention deficits and the inability to concentrate.
In football the inability to concentrate will lead to poor performance and increased risk of injuries.
There will also be gastrointestinal disturbances, which might range from changes in frequency of defecation and consistency of stool to actual diarrhoea and constipation.
There is a general decrease in appetite and this affects an individual preparing for competition.
All these effects will have negative effects on a player or an athlete.
Having highlighted the whole symptomatology and problems associated with jet lag it is vital to give general advice on how to counter its effects:
1: Stay in shape: For a sportsman going out for competitions, it is always important for them to keep in shape. This is also applicable to a non athlete to keep in shape if they know they will undertake a trip that will involve totally different time zones.
2: Get medical advice: If you have a medical condition that requires regular follow up such as diabetes and heart disease, it is important to seek medical advice.
3: Avoid alcohol: Alcohol should be avoided at all times before and during flying to a totally new time zone. Alcohol will disturb your sleeping pattern and will also cause dehydration, which will further increase on the fatigue.
4: Avoid caffeine: void caffeinated drinks because the caffeine further increase on the dehydration and disrupt the sleeping pattern. Caffeine can also have a stimulatory effect on the nerves and can worsen anxiety in some individuals.
5: Drink plenty of water: Avoiding dehydration is one sure way of fighting off fatigue. Water must be taken in good amounts throughout the flight.
6: Avoid sitting in one position for a long time: When flying for many hours it is important to take regular walks around the plane to support your circulatory system. Walking around also prevents muscle stiffness, revitalises the body and helps in fighting mental fatigue.
7: Break up your trip: If the flight is for more than 10 hours it is important to break up the trip and have a good stop over for a few days before continuing to the final destination.
8: Wear comfortable shoes and clothes: The shoes and clothes must be comfortable enough to fight the effects of flying for long hours. Also know the weather pattern of the final destination to select ideal clothes and shoes.
9: Check for ideal accommodation: The accommodation must be suitable for the stay. The shower rooms and other facilities need to be perfect for the stay. This is important for a sports team or an athlete who needs optimal conditions for recovery.
10: Adapt to the local schedule: It is important to quickly adapt to the normal routine schedules for the new environment. After adequate rest, a team should start with light exercises and regular walks must be encouraged.
Please avoid sleeping pills.
Jet lag and long distance travel can have devastating effects if not well managed and it is important for individuals and sports teams to plan well.
Jet lag can be a thin line between success and failure in sport.
I want to congratulate Zesco United Football Club for the good work they have put in ensuring that the team is ready to play in new environments. The good planning has ensured that the team gets to the CAF Champions League semi-finals.
For questions and comments write to Dr Kabungo Joseph
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