Illness at a Para Athletics Track and Field World Championships under Hot and Humid Ambient Conditions

PM R. 2019 Sep;11(9):919-925. doi: 10.1002/pmrj.12086. Epub 2019 Apr 1.


Background: Heat-related illness, including heat exhaustion and heat stroke, is seen as a major risk for athletes with a physical impairment.

Objective: Primary: To survey the illness statistics during the 2015 Para Athletics World Championships and report on any cases of significant heat-related illnesses. Secondary: To document the heat countermeasures taken on behalf of the organizing committee.

Design: Retrospective audit.

Setting: Medical records collected at medical centers during the 2015 Para Athletics World Championships.

Participants: Athletes participating in the 2015 Para Athletics World Championships.

Methods: Illness statistics and records of hospitalizations of athletes participating in the championships were recorded by the medical officials during the precompetition (3 days) and competition (10 days) periods. Furthermore, wet-bulb globe temperatures (WBGTs) were measured at the competition venues.

Main outcome measurements: Incidence rates of illness during the precompetition and competition periods.

Results: WBGTs ranged from 24.6°C to 36.0°C, regularly exceeding the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) and International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) guidelines for cancelation in the morning both during the competition (ACSM, 52%; IAAF, 97%) and precompetition periods (ACSM, 75%; IAAF, 100%). These guidelines were not exceeded as regularly during the evening and noon for both the precompetition and competition periods (ACSM, 0%-5%; IAAF, 0%-58%). The illness incidence rate was 2.89 per 1000 athlete-days (incidence proportion = 3.76%; confidence interval = 2.69%-4.83%). Only seven cases of heat-related illness were recorded, of which three required hospitalization.

Conclusion: This study indicates low rates of illness, including hospitalization and intravenous administration for heat-related illness among athletes participating in the 2015 Para Athletics World Championships.

Level of evidence: III.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Competitive Behavior*
  • Female
  • Heat Stress Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Hospitalization / statistics & numerical data
  • Hot Temperature
  • Humans
  • Humidity
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Qatar
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Sports for Persons with Disabilities*
  • Track and Field*