The combined effect of heat and carbon monoxide on the performance of motorsport athletes

S M Walker, T R Ackland, B Dawson
Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology. Part A, Molecular & Integrative Physiology 2001, 128 (4): 709-18
Two of the major stressors endured by a motorsport athlete (MSA) during a racing event are the effects of heat and carbon monoxide. To date, there has been little research into their combined effect on driving performance. Using an interactive racecar simulator located within an environmental chamber, subjects drove a simulated race (60 min) in environmental conditions similar to those that develop during a NASCAR Winston Cup oval track race (50 degrees C ambient temperature and 10-12% carboxyhaemoglobin levels). Subjects also completed cool (20 degrees C) and heat only (50 degrees C) race simulations. During the simulations, oxygen consumption, heart rate, core and skin temperatures and psychomotor performance were measured. The results demonstrated that exposure to a racecar micro-environment combining both heat and CO produced significantly greater (P<0.05) sweat loss and core temperature change (1.53 kg; 1.06 degrees C) when compared to the heat only (1.14 kg; 0.73 degrees C) and cool conditions (0.35 kg; 0.09 degrees C). Furthermore, a significant decrease (P<0.05) in psychomotor performance was also shown between the heat/CO condition (contact points=38), and both the heat only (25 points) and cool conditions (22 points). It follows that lengthy exposure to these two stressors could produce a substantial decrement in driving performance, thereby endangering the MSA and other race competitors.

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