The effects of dehydration on tennis performance in a temperate environment

Katharina Tilgner, Chris Easton

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstract


There seems to be discrepancies when addressing hydration and its effect on performance. Marathon runners compete successfully despite being dehydrated (6% body mass loss) and having high rectal temperature, weight loss, and sweat rate (Pugh et al. 1967: Journal of Applied Physiology, 23, 347-352). However, it has been suggested that tennis players need to minimise fluid loss (Bergeron et al. 1995: Clinical Sports Medicine, 14, 23-32). Hence this pilot study investigated the effects of dehydration on tennis performance. The study was approved by the University ethics committee. Participants were three male tennis players from a local tennis academy (age 17 ± 1 years, height 180 ± 9 cm, body mass 77 ± 11 kg) who undertook a habituation session prior to experimental testing and then completed two main trials, seven days apart, using a randomised cross-over design. Each trial comprised a forced dehydration protocol – 60 min walking and jogging in an environmental chamber (air temperature ~30°C and relative humidity ~ 40%) – followed by a 45 min rest period, when participants were either rehydrated (F) with plain water (volume equal to body mass loss) or were allowed no fluid (NF). Participants then completed the service element of the Loughborough Tennis Skill Test, which consisted of 10 serves into a marked rectangle (1.0 x 4.0 m) just below the service line on either side, and a 5 m shuttle run test, each separated by 5 min. Service accuracy, heart rate, distance covered during the shuttle runs and pre and post body mass were obtained. The forced dehydration caused a 1.2 ± 0.3 kg body mass loss, equivalent to 1.6 ± 0.3 %, which was temporally related to a reduction in service performance on the right-hand side (F; 5.0 ± 0 vs. NF; 3 ± 1 but not the left-hand side (F; 3 ± 1 vs. NF; 5 ± 0). Dehydration resulted in greater cardiovascular strain during the serve test (F; 126 ± 25 vs. NF; 132 ± 17 beats∙min-1) but not during the shuttle run (F; 182 ± 7 vs. NF; 182 ± 8 beats∙min-1). Finally no performance decrement was found in the shuttle run (F; 591 ± 97 vs. NF; 614 ± 96 m). In conclusion, acute dehydration failed to consistently and negatively impact tennis performance, however more data collection is needed to allow quantitative analyses to be conducted and clearer conclusions to be drawn.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2010


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