Ramadan and the World Cup: No problemo or a death wish?

Have you ever been to the gym? Or for a run? Or a bike ride? Or played soccer? Football? Basketball? You get hot, sweaty, and thirsty…  Now imagine doing that strenuous physical activity in tropical, humid brazil right now with average temperatures above 80F.

Now imagine you can’t have any water during that time. None.

With the onset of Ramadan, the holy month for Islam, a lot of people have been questioning the effects of this holiday on the muslim soccer players.  During Ramadan, followers are not permitted to eat OR DRINK during day light hours.  That means no water during the soccer games for athletes observing Ramadan.

Due to hot and humid conditions, this world cup has issued athletes take required water breaks in the middle of the games.  Yet, some of the most fantastic athletes, during one of the biggest most prestigious tournaments in the world, when they are expected to be at the height of their performance, will not be drinking water at all… due to religious reasons.  No water?! Surely that is insane?

But according to an article in the NYTimes, apparently fasting and not drinking water will have minuscule effect on the players.  Ron Maughan, a professor of sports nutrition at Loughborough University in England, conducted a study to examine the effects of fasting on athletes (prior to the 2012 London Olympics), and concluded that, “It might be fair to say there is no large effect.”  Apparently FIFA has also commissioned some studies to determine the effects of fasting:

“We made an important study with the doctor of the Algerian Football Federation, and it was very positive,” said Dr. Michel D’Hooghe, the chairman of FIFA’s medical committee and a member of its executive committee. “If you do it intelligently, then you can adapt perfectly. Before the sun comes up, they have enough hydration to go on through the whole day.”

Really?! So it is totally OK not to stay hydrated THROUGHOUT the games?! This all seems a little fishy to me.  Especially with the overwhelming evidence supporting the importance of hydration during athletic activity, ESPECIALLY in the heat (A simple google search, another simple google search).  Furthermore, irregular hydration and fasting has consequences for proper sleep habits as well… and of course, proper sleep and rest is incredibly important for athletic performance (WebMD).   In an article in the Huffington PostAli Zogbhi, vice president of the Federation of Muslim Associations in Brazil, said on Brazilian TV: “Science has already proved that if you do physical exercise without eating you experience serious problems. Therefore, it is more sensible to allow players to not fast during this period.”

The good news is that oftentimes, for special circumstances, exemptions can be made for followers of Ramadan.  Other times, followers can essentially “take a rain check,” and skip a few days of fasting, and make up those days at a later time.

The World Cup is a big deal, and for some of these players, this is there one and only moment to shine.  Hydration and nourishment are essential for peak performance ability.  A lot of athletes take their religion seriously… but for the sake of their health and career, I hope they make an exception during this World Cup and continue drinking water!!!

World Cup and Concussions

The USA vs GER game was indeed a nail-biter, but also quite the head-basher as well.  Clint Dempsey with another jab to the face, and Jermaine Jones bonking heads… definitely cringeworthy.  

There’s been a lot of news lately about head injuries in sports such as football.  But the other football, or soccer, needs to take this issue seriously too.  

We mentioned this in a previous post, and a nice article by The Washington Post details the extent of head injuries in soccer and what must be done about it.   Specifically, FIFA needs to take this issue more seriously!

“It’s barbaric. The way FIFA has turned an eye to head injuries, it’s 1950s-ish,” said ESPN analyst Taylor Twellman, the former University of Maryland and MLS star whose career was cut short due to concussions. “It’s just mind-boggling. . . . FIFA acts like it doesn’t exist.”

also

A handful of star players, such as Twellman and former D.C. United star Alecko Eskandarian, have had promising careers cut short by head injuries”

This is a real issue y’all.  A lot of head injuries lead to mental illness, neurological disorders, and sometimes death.  I’m a huge fan of soccer…but I’d rather see Jones and others sit out for a game to recover from head injury then to continue playing and potentially risk their health and lives.  It’s time to start acting on it, FIFA.

Brain abnormalities in players that ‘head’ the ball #WorldCupReminder

 headerreal

The 2014 FIFA World Cup is a good time to remind people that any impact to your head, including headers in soccer, can cause brain changes and abnormalities. This 2013 study in Radiology, showed brain changes by MRI in players that head the ball more.

RESULTS:

Participants had headed 32-5400 times (median, 432 times) over the previous year. Heading was associated with lower FA at three locations in temporo-occipital white matter with a threshold that varied according to location (885-1550 headings per year) (P < .00001). Lower levels of FA were also associated with poorer memory scores (P < .00001), with a threshold of 1800 headings per year. Lifetime concussion history and demographic features were not significantly associated with either FA or cognitive performance.

CONCLUSION:

Heading is associated with abnormal white matter microstructure and with poorer neurocognitive performance. This relationship is not explained by a history of concussion.

 

2014 FIFA World Cup will feature new goalline technology #GOAL

FIFA

Chris Wright reports on phys.org the new goal line technology that will by used in Brazil. It is unhackable and ‘100%’ accurate. However, the final call is still up to the referees.

World governing body FIFA awarded the contract to the German company (GoalControl) 16 months ago and there will be 14  at each of the 12 World Cup stadiums to determine if an attempt on goal has crossed the line or not.

There are seven cameras trained on each goal and the cameras each take 500 pictures per second, sending a “GOAL” message to the referee’s watch if the ball is in, GoalControl chairman Bjoern Lindner explained.

 

Where science and soccer come together: World Cup 2014

Mentioned in an earlier post with the “controversy” surrounding it, some REALLY AMAZING technology will debut at the world cup.  The exoskeleton suit, reminiscent of something out of Marvel comics, uses actual brain signals from individuals to allow them to move.  Spearheaded by Dr. Miguel Nicolelis, this exoskeleton will allow a paraplegic to actually kick the first ball of the world cup!

Check out the background and science behind it all here!!

Beyond excited for this showcase of scientific innovation at the first game of the World Cup!  Not to mention, it’s just really really cool!