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Ask the Lab: Heat and Hydration Concerns

PLEASE NOTE: The medical opinions in USTA.com's Ask the Lab are responses intended for the average player. Please consult with your primary physician before beginning any new exercise program.

From: Sammy, Birmingham, AL: In the South it is very hot for much of the year and I was wondering if you have any information to help me learn more about competing in the heat?

Dr. Mark Kovacs: Sammy,Thanks for your question. This is one of the most frequently asked questions by tennis players, both at a recreational level and a competitive level. Due to the fact that there is such a need for this information, the USTA Sport Science department has put together an educational booklet titled Heat and Hydration Concerns for Tennis Players.

Listed below are some of the topics covered in the educational booklet:
• Recommended fluid and hydration guidelines before, during and after matches
• Heat related illnesses – causes, symptoms and treatments
• 10 practical steps to succeed in the heat
• Comparisons between sports drinks and water
• Commonly asked heat and hydration questions are answered
• Basic nutritional suggestions during tournaments

Here is a short excerpt from the booklet:


1. Physically Prepare – The more physically fit the tennis player is, the less likelihood they will experience heat related issues

2. Drink, Drink, Drink – Drinking a combination of water and electrolyte enhanced beverages throughout the day, will help keep the tennis player well hydrated.

3. Don’t Rely on Thirst – Drink consistently, not just when thirsty. The body may be 2% dehydrated by the time thirst is experienced.

4. Increase Salt Content in Food and Drink – As salt is the major electrolyte lost in sweat, it is important to replace this important electrolyte throughout the day. Food that contains high salt contents are vegetable juice, canned soups, sports drinks, salted pretzels).

5. Use Ice and Other Cooling Mechanisms – Keeping the body cool before, during and after practice or competition is helpful in maintaing an appropriate body temperature. However, putting ice directly on muscles and joints during play is not advised due to the possibility of muscle and joint stiffening.

6. Appropriate fuel pre, during and post practice or match

7. Clothing - It is best to choose light colored, breathable and loosely woven fabrics to help sweat evaporate easily.

8. Sunscreen – In addition to helping reduce the instances of skin cancer, which is important for long-term health, applying liberal amounts of sunscreen will also prevent short-term sunburn that increases an athlete’s skin temperature and may make them more susceptible to heat related problems.

9. Acclimation – It is important to get the body adapted to a hot environment. Most occurrences of heat illness occur in the first 2-3 days of training or competition in a hot and humid environment.

10. Reduce contact with direct sunlight when not playing

About the Author

Mark Kovacs, PhD, CSCS, is the USTA Manager of Sport Science and is a tennis researcher, certified strength and conditioning specialist and certified tennis professional. He was a former tennis All-American and NCAA champion. The USTA Sport Science department is responsible for testing, training and tracking top junior and professional tennis players as well as producing, evaluating and disseminating sport science and sport medicine information relevant to tennis.

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