Hygiene will be a key component as Team GB look for marginal gains at Tokyo 2020.
It may sound a little bizarre but as athletes prepare for the Olympics this summer, they are being advised to wash their hands properly, even being shown tutorials.
The English Institute of Sport recommends competitors use SureWash, an online training programme used by NHS professionals after it was found coughs and colds are the main reason for athletes missing training days.
It was discovered that, between 20 July 2015 and the same date in 2017, a staggering 5,800 days of training were scuppered due to respiratory illnesses.
Funded by UK Sport, the EIS is based at Loughborough University, but pairs with academics from around the country in research that includes everything from biomechanics to finding the perfect amount of flex in canoeing paddles.
Craig Ranson, EIS’ director of athlete health, told The Guardian: “We are working with the vast majority of Olympic and Paralympic sports on effective handwashing techniques in preparation for the Tokyo Games, which includes tools such as the SureWash training system and UV light boxes.
“This is hugely important given that respiratory and gastro-intestinal illnesses are two of the biggest health threats to athlete availability for preparation and performance.”
Dr James Hull, one of the lead researchers and consultant respiratory physician at the Royal Brompton hospital, also told the newspaper: “When you look at all the athletes that travel to the Games and the problems that really scupper their chances or give them problems, nearly always top of the list are respiratory tract problems with infection at the top.
“If you think about the strategies around what you might term as marginal gains, clearly you want to remove anything that might cause problems for them.
“It’s akin to thinking about injury where you might use things like special shoes to reduce impact. We want to get better at trying to detect those who are at risk of respiratory problems and then to try and reduce that risk.”
It reminded us of Alan Partridge, when the fictional radio host and ‘This Time’ presenter was given a short session in handwashing earlier this year.
From ‘Hygiene’ to ‘Bye Jean’, Partridge hilariously learned the optimum way to ensure his hands were rid of harmful bacteria.
As Partridge learnt, whether after using the toilet or handling raw meat, a simple 20-second handwash (not fifteen as Alan insists!) will help with hygiene but it could also be the difference between silver and gold.