Australian Open: What Are Players Risking From Fire Pollution?

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The scene went around the world this Tuesday. Coughing fits, Slovenian Dalila Jakupovic crouched and burst into tears, unable to continue her qualifying match at the Australian Open. While surrounded by members of the organization, the referee announces the player’s retirement, the end of the game and the victory of his opponent.

Air quality monitors on Tuesday recorded pollution 20 times greater than safety levels in parts of Melbourne due to the wildfires that have been ravaging Australia for weeks. The authorities have even asked residents to stay cloistered at home, with their windows closed, with their pets.

“It can become dangerous in the short term”

For now, the organizers of the Australian Open maintain that it is still possible to play tennis. “It can become dangerous in the short term, as soon as you start to have a reduction in respiratory faculties, warns Jean-Bernard Fabre, doctor of physiology, specialist in the mechanism of fatigue. Air pollution slows down the body’s ability to bring this oxygen into the body. The latter simultaneously captures toxic agents, such as volatile hydrocarbons, nitrogen oxide, sulfur oxide, etc. It is this double punishment that is the most problematic. “

VIDEO. Australian Open player quits because of fire smoke

The consequences are no longer solely respiratory: “In the short term, they can cause allergies, asthma attacks, conjunctivitis, headaches … More serious, bronchitis can turn into pneumonia. “

And what’s more, it’s hot

Another factor comes into play: the weather. In Doha, during the last World Championships, the long-distance specialists fell like flies (40% abandoned in the women’s marathon). Their races, although taking place at midnight, were contested at a temperature of around 45 degrees … In Melbourne, it will be 34 ° this Wednesday with a humidity of 50%.

“Athletes, who have to earn a living, are used to managing their preparation according to natural conditions,” adds Jean-Bernard Fabre. The heat stroke (Editor’s note: big heat stroke) is just as dangerous. You don’t have to be alarmist, but be careful not to go overboard… ”

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