Pulse Oximeter Usage by Athletes

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Published: 15th November 2010
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Athletes are known to push their body, physically to its limit. Sprinters desire to run faster, while swimmers desire to swimmer faster, and mountain climbers desire to climb to higher elevations. It is of the utmost importance from a physiological point of view to monitor the bodyís reaction to this increase in strenuous physical activity. One of the most important aspects is to monitor the pulse rate and blood oxygen level (SpO2) during this period of activity. SpO2 is defined as the percentage of hemoglobin binding sites in the bloodstream occupied oxygen. Typcial SpO2 levels range from 90 to 95 percent and this number can be greatly affected during extreme strenuous exercise. Due to the rise in elevation and lack of oxygen, mountain climbers run the risk of experiencing hypoxia which is a medical term referring to the body lack of adequate oxygen. As a result, athletes have turned to utilizing portable pulse oximeters to monitor their pulse rate and SpO2 during extreme physical activity.

What is a pulse oximeter? Pulse Oximeters come in a couple forms. Most athletes utilize a pulse oximeter that is small, hand-held medical device allowing for measurement of the oxygen saturation of an individualís blood as well an individualís heart rate. Instead of measuring oxygen saturation through an invasive procedure such as a blood sample, a pulse oximeter is used as a painless and non-invasive medical tool. Due to the ease of use, speed, and cost effectiveness, pulse oximeters are the preferred device to measure vital signs during extreme physical activity.

The applications of pulse oximeters in sports are quite diverse and varied. Many athletes may have medical preconditions including but not limited to respiratory and cardiac problems which must be monitored during exercise. By using a pulse oximeter, the athlete can simply take a measurement of their pulse rate or SpO2 levels at their convenience. Simply inserting their finger into the oximeter and an accurate reading of the pulse rate and SpO2 will be displayed within seconds. The most compatible type of oximeter during physical activity is the Wrist Unit Pulse Oximeter which fastens around the wrist of the athlete and thus stay in place during physical activity.

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