With tennis season in full swing, we often forget that warm weather, high heat index, and hot court surfaces are risk factors for dehydration and heat-related illnesses. Whether you are playing tennis competitively or just for fun, hydration must be taken seriously.
Dehydration can result in a loss of up to 2% of body weight and can cause a multitude of symptoms including cramps, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, headaches, dizziness, and changes in mental status. An appropriate and regular hydration schedule can help avoid many of these complications. Remember to begin hydrating even before stepping on the court!
Sweating is the body’s natural way of staying cool and combating overheating. Our sweat rate should rise as the temperature climbs and the length of play increases. However, sometimes the conditions make it difficult to adequately shed heat. Tennis is played at all times of the day and courts often have minimal shade available. Moreover, summers in the Northeast are known for tremendously high humidity, which makes it even harder to stay cool and hydrated.
An easy way to monitor your hydration level is to check the color of your urine – it should be clear and dilute. If it is dark yellow or in low volume, then you are not hydrated enough. Another way monitor water intake is to weigh yourself before and after playing. Any weight lost should be replenished with the appropriate amount of fluids. The general rule of thumb is to drink a half-quart or a half-liter of liquid per pound lost.
Guidelines for successful hydration practices for tennis players include:
- Limiting and/or avoiding caffeinated beverages, especially right before and after match play as they cause an increase in fluid loss.
- Drinking before you become thirsty.
- It is recommended to drink 500ml of water a half hour before practice or a match
- Always carry a water bottle. It is good practice to keep a minimum of 1-2 liters of water with you.
- Sports drinks that contain greater than 8% sugar are not recommended pre-match.
- Implementing GOOD PRACTICE:
- During practice or a match take frequent water breaks at each changeover (100-200ml of water)
- Wear loose fitting, light clothing
- Change clothing (i.e., t-shirts) to keep yourself dry and improve the heat loss process.
- Consuming enough fluids throughout the day so urine is a light or pale yellow color before starting a match.
Remember, it is always important consult a physician or dietitian with any concerns.
Ioonna Felix is a doctor of physical therapy at the James M. Benson Sports Rehabilitation Center. A board certified Orthopedic Specialist and a certified tennis performance specialist, she treats players of all levels and continues to compete in tennis herself. She also has a special interest in tennis performance assessments, which she performs at the Tisch Performance Center at Hospital for Special Surgery.