Environmental and Psychophysical Heat Stress in Adolescent Tennis Athletes

in International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance
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Purpose: We investigated the environmental conditions in which all outdoor International Tennis Federation (ITF) junior tournaments (athlete ages: <18 y) were held during 2010–2019. Thereafter, we performed a crossover trial (ClinicalTrials.gov: NCT04197375) assessing the efficacy of head–neck precooling for mitigating the heat-induced psychophysical and performance impacts on junior athletes during tennis match play. Methods: ITF junior tournament information was collected. We identified meteorological data from nearby (13.6 [20.3] km) weather stations for 3056 (76%) tournaments. Results: Overall, 30.1% of tournaments were held in hot (25°C–30°C wet-bulb globe temperature [WBGT]; 25.9%), very hot (30°C–35°C WBGT; 4.1%), or extremely hot (>35°C WBGT; 0.1%) conditions. Thereafter, 8 acclimatized male junior tennis athletes (age = 16.0 [0.9] y; height = 1.82 [0.04] m; weight = 71.3 [11.1] kg) were evaluated during 2 matches: one with head–neck precooling (27.7°C [2.2°C] WBGT) and one without (27.9°C [1.8°C] WBGT). Head–neck precooling reduced athletes’ core temperature from 36.9°C (0.2°C) to 36.4°C (0.2°C) (P = .001; d = 2.4), an effect reduced by warm-up. Head–neck precooling reduced skin temperature (by 0.3°C [1.3°C]) for the majority of the match and led to improved (P < .05) perceived exertion (by 13%), thermal comfort (by 14%), and thermal sensation (by 15%). Muscle temperature, heart rate, body weight, and urine specific gravity remained unaffected (P ≥ .05; d < 0.2). Small or moderate improvements were observed in most performance parameters assessed (d = 0.20–0.79). Conclusions: Thirty percent of the last decade’s ITF junior tournaments were held in hot, very hot, or extremely hot conditions (25°C–36°C WBGT). In such conditions, head–neck precooling may somewhat lessen the physiological and perceptual heat strain and lead to small to moderate improvements in the match-play performance of adolescent athletes.

Misailidi, Mantzios, Ioannou, and Flouris are with the FAME Laboratory, Dept of Physical Education and Sport Science, University of Thessaly, Trikala, Greece. Papakonstantinou is with the Peloponnese Association of Tennis Clubs, Patras, Greece.

Flouris (andreasflouris@gmail.com) is corresponding author.
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