Finnish Olympic athletes use Nightingale's blood test to enhance health and performance

The Research Institute for Olympic Sports in Finland is collaborating with Nightingale to explore the Olympic athletes’ immune system, their susceptibility to infections and other wellness parameters.

Nightingale's blood test will be used by 30 top cross-country skiers from the Finnish National XC ski team to compare their health stats with regular people of the same age and sex. The aim is to identify differences between the metabolic health of these highly active sportspersons and individuals who have an average active life.  

“We face a huge challenge with the athletes training for international games like the Olympics or other world championships as, very often, they fall ill right before a big competition and a lot of the work goes to waste. However, currently, we don’t have enough knowledge around respiratory infections and immunology in sports medicine to be able to prevent and truly understand such a scenario,” says Dr Maarit Valtonen, the lead MD (Doctor of Medicine) for the Finnish Olympic Team. “We have a feeling that, in some sports, athletes might be more susceptible to infections than regular people and that's what we want to investigate,” adds Valtonen. 

“We are proud to collaborate with the Research Institute for Olympic Sports and provide new insights into athletes’ health that can help them optimise their performance and wellbeing,” says Teemu Suna, founder and CEO of Nightingale Health.  

Nightingale's blood test sounds like an exciting tool, and I’m sure it can be helpful in planning the training sessions and get the best results in competitions. I am looking forward to seeing the results.

Laura Mononen

Finnish Olympic cross-country skier

Investigating the health of Olympic skiers 

Explaining the relevance of this research, Dr Valtonen shares that in a study done during the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics in South Korea, the researchers had found 45% of the Finnish athletes in the Pyeongchang Olympic village to have some symptoms of respiratory infections. They repeated the same study earlier this year in the Seefeld Nordic World Ski Championships 2019 and again the results were similar. So, it was clear that the top sportspersons in these big games are very susceptible to infections.  

Therefore, in this new study using Nightingale's blood test, the researchers are investigating if there are any significant differences between the immune systems of the top athletes and ordinary people that make the athletes more vulnerable. “We want to understand the whole concept better and find research-based evidence on what makes the athletes more prone to these illnesses and what we can do about it. We also aim to find concrete biological markers (indicators) that can warn us well in advance if an athlete is about to fall ill so that we can take preventive measures to avert the sickness. Right now, we lack that knowledge,” explains Dr Valtonen.  

Researchers believe the results will help the athletes have more healthy training days, optimise their performance, especially during international gaming events, and stay at the top of their health.

The athletes will also be tracking health indicators related to inflammation, metabolism and whether dietary supplements have an effect on these. In later phases of the study, scientists further plan to examine the associations between the athletes’ gut microbiome (microbes in the intestine) and draw associations with their metabolism.  

The Principal Investigator of this collaborative research project is Professor Emeritus Olli Ruuskanen from the University of Turku. And the third collaborator is Professor Olli Heinonen from Paavo Nurmi Centre.

For better care 

The researchers believe that the results will help the athletes have more healthy training days, optimise their performance (especially during international gaming events and the championship seasons) and stay at the top of their health.

Laura Mononen, a Finnish cross-country skier who has represented her country in many world championships and in Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, said she is “eagerly waiting for her test results”. “I have had to deal with infections on several occasions earlier in my career. The situation is more stable now, but I really hope that the study results will be able to guide athletes on how to take better care of themselves and improve performance.”  

We want to understand what makes the athletes more prone to these illnesses. We also aim to find concrete biological markers (indicators) that can warn us well in advance if an athlete is about to fall ill so that we can take preventive measures.

Dr Maarit Valtonen

Lead Doctor for the Finnish Olympic Team

The blood samples required for the analysis were collected in March-April 2019, during the National Cross-country Skiing Championships. The data will be analysed during autumn and the first results are expected to be published by early 2020.  “The blood test using Nightingale's technology sounds like an exciting tool, and I’m sure it can be helpful in planning the training sessions and get the best results in competitions. I am looking forward to seeing the results,” adds Mononen. 

Nightingale’s health data is not just for researchers or athletes but can be used by anyone to keep themselves healthy. “Our technology is not only versatile but pioneering in preventive care as it offers details about your health that was not revealed to you before. This will give everyone a chance to improve their lifestyle and live healthier lives,” says Suna. 

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