A Q&A with Nick Worth, the director for medical services at Al Jazira club, on how to handle humidity and hot weather.
Footballers need to 'work around' the heat factor in the Arabian Gulf
The challenges of hosting a World Cup in the Arabian Gulf in 10 year's time were highlighted on Friday. Temperatures for the World Cup 2014 qualifying matches between Qatar and South Korea in Doha and the Oman-Australia game in Muscat were hovering around the 40°C mark.
Tonight, Al Wasl and Al Muharraq, from Bahrain, will brave the heat in the match at Zabeel Stadium. Nick Worth, medical services director at Al Jazira, explains the precautions the Abu Dhabi club take:
"There's quite a few little bits we do rather than any grand gestures. Obviously, we encourage them to drink a lot more and hydrate successfully. We use energy gels and bars before the game and at half time. It gives them a release of energy and helps them replace a lot of the minerals that you lose through sweating. Aside from that some players have electrolyte drinks, as well. We have normal isotonic drinks but some of them have electrolyte supplements or additives into these drinks which just helps replace stuff lost by sweating."
How much weight does a player lose in these conditions during a game?
The warmer it is the more fluids you lose. The rule of thumb is that if you lose a kilogram of weight you replace that with a litre-and-a-quarter to a litre-and-a-half of fluid. That is the theory or formula you work to. Some of them stick to it, some don't. The more professional players do take care of it but there are a number of players who don't do care, less-professional players. But also, dehydration is a massive impairment to performance, as much as it is cramping of muscles, It also affects your thought processes, so that you can't perform. Your decision making is impaired sometimes by it if you are not adequately hydrated.
Are local players more accclimatised than foreign players?
When it gets to the real high heat it affects everyone. We have one player who performs much better in the cooler months at the beginning of the season. He's not anywhere near as effective when it is warmer. For one or two players we use ice jackets at half time to cool down core body temperatures. We have jackets with gel inside that we put into a bucket of ice, and then at half time some players wear them as a way of just cooling the core temperature.
Do foreign players get used to it easily?
When you have experienced one summer here, you understand what it is all about and you are better prepared. People portray it by scaring you, that it's like hell during the summer and obviously, yes, it is hot, but most of the time you work around it.
Do you have to adjust the training times?
Our training times change throughout the season according to the temperatures. We were training at 5.30pm till a few weeks ago but have now changed it to 7pm. Come pre-season we will be training at 10pm, because part of that will be Ramadan.
Does heat contribute to the pace of game being slower in Arabian Gulf generally?
I think that is absolutely true. When it is as hot as it is, the game is quite a different game. If Premier League teams came here and played at the same pace they would struggle. With a view to Qatar in 2022, there's a lot of thoughts and provisions with what may or may not happen But there is also a difference within [Arabian] Gulf countries - our conditions are quite humid in comparison to dry heat of Saudi Arabia. But the difference in humidity is also a difference to account for.