In sports, acclimatization is best applied to structural and metabolic functions. Structural aspects include muscles, tendons and bones and how they work together. Metabolic systems provide energy to support movement and activity.
In order to avoid potential structural injuries, athletes should stretch adequately before beginning a workout. Starting slowly with a shorter exercise interval and a moderate pace helps. A non-jarring workout such as swimming or cycling before hitting the road for a long run is advisable.
The most reliable indication of a structural problem is pain. Discomfort for 24 hours after a workout is not uncommon but after that, pain should subside. If muscle and joint pain persist or worsen, a medical evaluation is advised.
Metabolic injury can result from extreme physical stress, dehydration, oxygen deprivation or a combination of these factors.
Muscle breakdown from overexertion results in the release of enzymes from damaged muscles. This condition, known as rhabdomyolysis, can lead to renal failure.
Dehydration in the face of working out in hot weather can lead to heat stroke and cardiac failure.
Workouts at high altitude can lead to dizziness and headaches from changes in oxygen concentration.
“Injuries due to metabolic overload typically occur when an athlete is being pushed to work harder by a coach or personal trainer,” said Dr. Jeffrey Anderson, Director of Sports Medicine at the University of Connecticut. Coaches at all levels must be aware of human limitations, especially at the youth sports level, according to Anderson.
The human body has built-in warning signs of impending disaster, including lightheadedness, fatigue and pain. It’s only when these signs are ignored that tragedy occurs.