Elite athletes who travel across more than five timezones to compete, more than double their risk of illness, a BMJ study has suggested.
The researchers argue the different germs and allergens of a new environment affect the athletes. Air travel does not seem to play a part as on returning home the competitors’ health does not differ from normal. They suggest this could contribute to a home advantage for Team GB in the Olympic Games.
Areas to think about:
- Any form of long distance travel is obviously highly disruptive in a number of different ways. What potential biological mechanisms/pathways might be involved in increasing risk of illness? In other words, what aetiological factors could be implicated?
- How might you devise a study to determine which of the above factors are correlated with illness, and which are merely incidental?
- Although the study focused on trained athletes, the effect may be true for the rest of us too. How might we mitigate against it?