Recent research has demonstrated transient affective changes and impairment of short-term memory in college wrestlers as a result of rapid weight loss (RWL) of at least 5% body weight prior to competition. This study examined the effects of RWL on cognition and affect in high school wrestlers. Wrestlers were considered to be engaging in RWL if they were losing over 5% of body weight (n = 14). Those losing less than 1% of body weight (n = 14) were considered maintainers and served as the control group. Both groups were given a battery of tests assessing cognitive performance (Trail Making Tests A & B, Stroop color-word test, Wechsler digit span, and choice reaction/movement time) and affective state (PANAS) at normal weight (5 to 10 days prior to competition) and again 8 to 12 hours prior to weigh-in. Results indicated an average loss of 4.68 kg in the RWL group and 0.29 kg in the control group. A group-by-time MANOVA and univariate follow-up tests indicated a significant group-by-time interaction for positive affect, p < .014, with the RWL wrestlers having less positive affect than the control group just prior to weigh-in. However, none of the cognitive performance tests demonstrated significant differential changes for RWL vs. control groups, p > .10. Given the control for competition effects in the present study, results suggest there are affective disturbances, but not cognitive impairments, associated with RWL of at least 5% body weight in high school wrestlers.
The authors are with the Dept. of Exercise Science and Physical Education at Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ 85287-0404.