Qatar World Cup 2022 was the 21st edition of the quadrennial international men’s football tournament. It was the first time it had been staged in an Arab country as Qatar won the right to host this event. We are talking about a small country in the Middle East, and one of the hottest countries in the world. The climate of Qatar was different from what most people are used to. This article, from a professional doctor, outlines some of the key health concerns related to staging a World Cup in Qatar and how the country dealt with those concerns, viewed from a medical perspective. Wasn’t like playing casino roulette with players’ health?
Doctor’s concerns about heat conditions
Qatar World Cup 2022 offered a brutally hot climate for qualified teams, players and fans. Heat disorders were more likely during the World Cup as the stadium temperatures rose above the heat levels experienced outside. Venues required to have cooling technology that could maintain the temperature inside the stadium between 25 and 26 degrees Celsius, as recommended by FIFA’s “Green Protocol” for major sporting events.
The “Green Protocol” recommended that fans be offered fluid replacement services. If the temperature rose above 31 degrees Celsius, the match should be postponed.
Hospital infrastructure was also challenged by the heat. However the emergency services were well equipped and trained as they were able manage the expected increase in heat-related emergencies well
Doctor’s concerns about players’ injuries
With the World Cup 2022 being held in Qatar, there were concerns that the extreme heat will cause health problems for players and even for the many sports betting companies who offered odds on the World Cup. We know of quite a few guys who were Head of Sportsbook who were scratching their heads during the group stages while pricing up odds, special prices and outright odds! Fatigue and heat illnesses were the biggest concerns. Players felt an increase in body temperature as well as dehydration when playing due to the desert climate. Dehydration can lead to muscle cramps and dizziness, but this can also lead to more serious health conditions such as heat stroke which is a medical emergency.
Although stadiums and training facilities were cooled with a closed-circuit system that runs water through pipes into metal containers and then evaporates back into the air, that was not enough to prevent high body temperatures during training or games. For these reasons, doctors have expressed concern that there may be a significant increase in long-term injuries to the players after the 2022 tournament. To prevent this from happening players should be looked after and their work-load should be managed carefully.
Doctor’s concerns related to skin disorders
Qatar World Cup 2022’s high temperatures posed a significant risk to the health of players and staff. This was compounded by prolonged exposure to the sun, which can lead to a host of skin-related conditions, such as sunburn, as well as a greater risk of skin cancer. Blisters, dehydration, and heat exhaustion were also real possibilities. When playing in high temperatures, players wore less clothing, which can increase the risk of skin damage. FIFA had advised that the stadiums be equipped with cooling technologies, such as air conditioning, misting systems, and misters. They had also advised that players have regular breaks and that the stadiums have shaded areas for them to rest. Only time will tell if these precautions were successful in combating skin issues faced by the players during the World Cup.
Doctor’s concerns due to untested healthcare system of Qatar
Prompted by concerns regarding sports-related health issues, Qatar was urged to improve its healthcare system by FIFA. There was an insufficient number of trained staff, including doctors, nurses, and paramedics before 2022. There were also significant concerns regarding the quality of the healthcare system in Qatar. The country was given until 2022 to meet FIFA’s minimum requirements and we know that some healthcare facilities still require modernization but in general Qatar was successful in meeting FIFA’s requirements regarding medical equipment and staff training. There were concerns that access to medical facilities may be restricted due to the large number of fans visiting the country but this issues were also handled professionally by Qatari authorities.
Summing up doctor’s concerns about Qatar World Cup 2022
With the FIFA World Cup taken place in Qatar in 2022, there were concerns that the extreme heat in the country could pose a risk to both fans and players.
However, overall risks of heat stroke remained low because good practices were followed. People drank enough water, wore sunscreen and avoided the most common form of heat stroke- which is caused by dehydration. The temperature was also reduced by using air conditioning systems during games and limiting playing time on artificial turf fields with high temperatures also helped. It has been shown that the changes made during matches played at the 2022 World Cup did reduce the incidence of serious injuries occurring due to heatstroke and exhaustion. The hosts were lauded for their efforts to prepare for the event, as well as their awareness of the potential dangers posed by high temperatures.
Similarly, organizers of Qatar World Cup 2022 had promised that they will do everything possible to minimize health risks while still hosting an exciting competition and deliver on their promise. They planed to use local know-how to mitigate the heat and provided shaded areas in stadiums, with all spectators given free drinking water and cold towels. It is certain that these precautions translated well to men’s football and resulted in exciting matches even in hotter climates. Studies showed that even if only 10% of spectators have access to shade, it makes a significant difference in preventing heat stroke.
All things considered, Qatar gave a good account of themselves and were successful in organizing this prestigious event. But long-term consequences of playing a complete tournament in the middle of the season in extreme heat are yet to be witnessed. What do you think? Let us know by leaving a comment below. Stay healthy, keep smiling and you can always reach out to Allan Aasterud on Linkedin!