Special Feature: Combatting Dubai heat

We take a look at what has gone into the preparations to minimise the effects of the Dubai heat.

When the draw for the Socceroos AFC World Cup qualifying group matches against both Iraq and Qatar was made, one thing was certain, meticulous planning was needed to try and combat the expected hot and humid conditions in the Middle East in June.

And boy is it hot and humid!

Football Federation Australia was going to leave no stone unturned to give the players every chance of performing at their peak for these two very important games. The FFA medical staff has put together a strategic plan and hopefully over the course of the next week, the results will be proof of that planning.

David Cooper caught up with the Socceroos Strength and Conditioning coach Darren Burgess to go take you through just some of things involved in this planning.

Dave Cooper (DC) - So Darren how long would it take for a player to acclimatize to these very warm and humid conditions? Darren Burgess (DB) - Generally it takes someone about 7-10 days to fully acclimatize to the conditions. We-re here for six days prior to the Iraq game and obviously 12 days before the Qatar game. It-s not perfect, but normally we don-t get to players for this long, so its been pretty good. The players will almost fully acclimatized by the time the game starts on Saturday night against Iraq.

DC - One of the big things with training and playing in these types of weather conditions, is the amount of weight players lose. Roughly how much would a player lose in these conditions? DB - The range last night (Wednesday) was anywhere between 3½ kilos for some players and one of the players lost no weight at all. Individually it can also range a lot and obviously the players that loss a little bit more weight, we want them to them to rehydrate perhaps a little bit more and that-s not to say players that don-t lose as much weight should ignore their rehydration. It just means that some players can adapt more easily to the conditions than others.

DC - They obviously need to put that weight back on. How you get them to do that? DB - For me I prefer a gradual build up to get the weight back on. They don-t necessarily need to get it back on straight away, within an hour after training. The general rule of thumb is you need to put back on 1½ times what you lost, so if someone lost 2 kilos, they would need to drink 4 litres to get that back. If they can do that over the evening after training or even the next morning, we are generally pretty happy. In terms of what they drink, we don-t drink a lot of water over here, because they tend to sweat that out pretty easily. We drink PowerAde, which is one of our sponsors, and give them a few supplements which allows them to retain that fluid.

DC - So what testing have you had to do with the players over the past few weeks? DB - We did some extensive testing on the players last week in Brisbane and we know how much each player sweats and what the sweat composition is. For example, some players sweat a lot of salt, some players sweat a lot of water and other players sweat a combination, so each player has their own individual drink they consume before and during training and that enables us to ensure that each player gets their own individual rehydration package. For instance David Carney will get a different drink to what Vince Grella will because they have different sweat rates and they sweat differently. Everything is very, very tailored; very individual and there is no real surprises for the guys here because they know if they are a heavy sweater or light sweater and whether they need to consume more or consume less. That was the advantage of doing this testing that we did with them over the last two weeks.

DC - So when it comes to training, what are the main things you have done to prepare them right? DB - The biggest thing we did for these conditions was the sweat patch testing last week. That basically involved they wear a sweat patch during and after training and we can analyse how much they sweat and what their composition is, as I mentioned before. That was the most comprehensive thing we-ve done and that enabled us to determine who needs what and how much fluid they need. The other thing that-s really important in these conditions is pre-cooling and we want to try and keep the body cool for as long as possible. At training last night we had the ice vests out; using ice baths and cool fluids and things like that to keep the body pretty cool during the game as much as possible. So there are two main things - keeping them cool in whatever way we can and to individualise their fluid to match what their sweat rate is.

DC - Do you simulate training to a game? DB - It-s a catch 22, because you don-t want to simulate it too much like a game, because it will take a lot out of them and it might take them a lot longer to recover. They trained last night at 7 o-clock and we them to train again at the same time, so if we had it exactly like a game, it would be a little bit tougher to turnaround and train tonight. We do want to simulate games situations during training, but it might only be half an hour or 40 minutes rather than full 45 or 90 minute session. We want to get the players as rehydrated as possible and as quickly as possible, so it-s important they have drink breaks during training, which you don-t generally get during a game.

So what things outside of training are you advising the players to do? DB - I guess one of the big things here (at team hotel) is the air-conditioning; its very cool inside, but very hot outside, so we tell them not to have the air-conditioning on too high, so they are acclimatizing a little bit quicker to the hot conditions. We also want to expose them to a little bit of sun, generally early in the morning before 11am. We like to go outside; have a walk, get in the water, have a stretch; whatever it might be to get them a little bit of sun exposure, but obviously not too much, so it does any damage like sunburn and things like that.