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Friday, August 24, 2007

Air Beckham: A Medical Expert Gives His Opinion

Last night in Carson, California, David Beckham played a full 90 minutes only 30 hours after doing the same for England at Wembley Stadium against Germany. Unfortunately, this is the tip of the iceberg for Mr. Beckham's upcoming travel itinerary.

According to an article that appeared today on BBC Sport Online, "Beckham, 32, faces at least 22 games, almost 80,000 air miles - across 128 time zones - and nearly a week in the air over the next three months. 'I'm not going to deny there comes a point when your body can't do it anymore,' said Galaxy boss Alexi Lalas."

Mr. Lalas speaks from direct experience. In 1995, he played two games in two consecutive days on two different continents. Here is a question and answer from our interview last year:

(SA) Our AC Cugini audience might not know about one of your incredible feats. You played a game with Padova against Genoa. It was a very important game because relegation was on the line. After winning the game, you immediately flew across the Atlantic to appear in a US National Team match against Nigeria. Please tell us your motivations behind this tremendous accomplishment?

(AL) It was a blur. We beat Genoa to stay in Serie A and then I flew immediately to Boston and played against Nigeria. My only regret was that I didn’t get to go back to Padova for the party! For Padova to stay in Serie A was an incredible feat and to do it in a one-game playoff was something that was historic. I remember after the Nigeria game going back to my hotel room and sleeping for the next day and a half.

A medical expert spoke to the BBC about the effects of so much air travel on the human body:

"Ken van Someren, who is responsible for the health of Britain's elite athletes, said Beckham's frequent flying was a cause for serious concern. 'The problems are twofold: a reduced performance and an increased risk of injury,' van Someren told BBC Sport. 'I would want to track very carefully how that athlete was coping.'

'All of our bodies have a natural rhythm - the circadian rhythm - and as a result body temperature, muscle strength, joint flexibility and mental performance all tend to peak in the late afternoon or early evening.

Now if you fly somewhere that is eight hours different (the time difference between Los Angeles and London) you are not going to be at your peak for a few days - you're going to be less strong, less flexible and less alert, which is going to increase the risk of injury.'

'Put it this way, when it comes to next year's Olympics in Beijing, none of our athletes will be travelling across that many time zones within a week of competition.' "

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