Wet bulb globe temperature index and performance in competitive distance runners

Med Sci Sports Exerc. 1997 Jul;29(7):955-61. doi: 10.1097/00005768-199707000-00016.


In 1974 two sets of heat stress guidelines, each based on the wet bulb globe temperature (WBGT) index, were designed for men's National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Championship Division I distance running competitions. One set of guidelines was established to minimize the chance of heat injury during distance running events. A second set was designed to predict heat stress related performance decrements. During the time the heat injury guidelines were used (1974-1993), no heat injuries were reported. The purpose of this study was to assess the accuracy of the performance decrement guidelines and determine whether the WBGT indices were linearly related to men's championship distance running performance. WBGT index data were collected during the 1500-, 3000-steeplechase (SC), 5000-, and 10,000-m events at men's NCAA Division I Track and Field Championships held from 1974 to 1981 (excluding 1975). These data were compared to the average running performance of the top six finishers in each event. Analysis of the accuracy of the NCAA performance decrement guidelines revealed four unexpected performances out of 28 predictions. Pearson product-moment correlation and linear regression analyses between the WBGT indices and performance revealed statistically significant linear relationships for the 3000-SC and 10,000-m events (P < 0.05). A significant linear relationship was also found when the 1500-, 3000-SC, 5000-, and 10,000-m results were pooled (P < 0.05). In conclusion, the NCAA guidelines were effective in preventing heat injury and fairly successful in predicting performance. However, a linear relationship between WBGT indices and distance running performance did not exist in all running events.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Body Temperature Regulation
  • Environmental Monitoring / standards*
  • Guidelines as Topic
  • Heat Stress Disorders / prevention & control*
  • Hot Temperature*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Physical Endurance / physiology*
  • Regression Analysis
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Running / physiology*