Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Blood Platelets – An Olympic cyclist’s friend

Blood Platelets
I was reading an interesting article about Bradley Wiggins, winner of the Tour De France and a 2012 Olympic gold medal winner. Interest in him is sky-high at the moment and he is the current model athlete when journalists discuss what makes a winner.

Physiologically, there are two features of an athlete that sets them apart from the average person. Firstly, they are more than likely to have a large heart. Pumping all that blood around to the muscles is essential for top level performance. Endurance athletes like Bradley Wiggins have large left ventricles and compared to us mere mortals, his heart needs to beat less often when he is at rest. The other features that such athletes need are the muscles that can utilize the oxygen carried in the blood in a proficient manner.

Another element that I believe they need – especially in events like the Tour De France – happens to be a blood component. Given the number of times that these cyclists are involved in crashes, their blood platelets are regularly exercised to staunch the flow of blood from the many scrapes and wounds that they pick up along the way. These cyclists don’t appear to feel pain. They simply wipe away the blood and sweat and jump straight back on their bikes, leaving it to their blood platelets to do the healing.

If it was me in that situation – which is very unlikely – I would spend the next fifteen minutes requiring medical attention for even the smallest of cuts and then I would spend the next few days feeling sorry for myself. Then again, that’s probably why I am sitting here writing this and Bradley is elsewhere, polishing his gold medal and giving another interview. And all the while, his blood platelets are busy replenishing themselves, ready for the next time he and his fellow cyclists end up in a heap.

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