What's a handshake worth? British Olympic athletes warned about germs
Health experts encourage the athletes to also maintain good hand hygiene to help minimize the risk of contracting illnesses.
Tue, Mar 06, 2012 at 06:57 AM
HEALTH HAZARD: Tennis players James Blake and Roger Federer shake hands at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. British health officials have cautioned athletes to keep the hand shaking to a minimum. (Photo: Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
LONDON — Britain's athletes have been told of the dangers of shaking hands at this year's Olympics in case they pick up a bug that could wreck their sporting dreams.
The British Olympic Association's (BOA) chief medical officer said that "within reason," shaking hands should be off-limits, given the fact that all athletes will live and eat in close proximity at the games village — and bugs could spread like wildfire.
"Within reason if you do have to shake hands with people, so long as you understand that regular handwashing and/or also using hand foam can help reduce the risk — that would be a good point," Dr. Ian McCurdie said.
The BOA has drawn up a list of health advice for its 550-strong team of athletes and 450 support staff for the Olympic Games, which start in London on July 27, with illness identified as the greatest threat to performance along with injury.
"At an Olympic Games or any major event the performance impact of becoming ill or even feeling a little bit ill can be significant," McCurdie explained, saying that bugs could easily be picked up from anything from cutlery to door handles.
"Essentially we are talking about minimizing risk of illness and optimizing resistance. Minimizing exposure and getting bugs into the system and being more robust to manage those should that happen.
"Hand hygiene is it. It is all about hand hygiene."
At the 2010 Commonwealth Games in New Delhi, where the athletes' village was hit by concerns about cleanliness, a number of swimmers picked up bugs that either affected their performance or forced them to pull out of events altogether.
Other health warnings for British athletes at the London Olympics include sleep deprivation, long working hours and the disruption of having to live in a new environment.
Athletes could also expect to feel the pressures of performing in front of a home crowd, the BOA said.
Copyright 2012 AFP Global Edition