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Exercise-Heat Stress, Hyperthermia, Dehydration and Fatigue Effects on Cognitive Performance among Semi-Professional Male Athletes
Adiele Dube, Chantell Gouws and Gerrit J Breukelman
Department of Human Movement Sciences, University of Zululand
Adiele is a Sports Science researcher who has more than 20 publications in physical activity, health promotion, sports injuries and rehabilitation. His research expertise are in exercise physiology, human performance, physical activity, sports injuries and rehabilitation.
Background: Evidence regarding heat stress, dehydration, hypohydration and fluid balance effects on semi-professional athletes’ cognitive function is still limited. This study aimed to examine the effects of exercise heat-stress, hyperthermia, dehydration and fatigue on cognitive performances in semi-professional athletes.
Methods: Eighteen healthy male athletes with; age (25 ± 5) years, weight (69.3 ± 6.6) kg; height (172.5 ± 7.8) cm, BMI (23.2 ± 0.9) kgm ̵² and body fat (9.2 ± 1.8) % from individual and team sports participated. Participants completed a cognitive and mood test battery prior, immediately after and post 120 min of treadmill exercise. A soccer-specific intermittent treadmill exercise protocol was completed in four experimental trials in temperate (normothermic) and hot (hyperthermic) conditions. Participants were hydrated and dehydrated in both conditions. Trial conditions were; normothermic 16.4 ± 0.02°C and 52 ± 1% RH, while hyperthermic 33.9 ± 0.3°C and 61 ± 1% RH.
Results: Response times; the Stroop effect and Visual search tasks were quicker (584 to 690 ms, p= 0.001; 1978 to 2213 ms, p= 0.003) in the heat. Cognitive tasks showed that reaction time, visual process, motor speed and mood were similar in normothermic (p=0.001). Accuracy improved in hydrated hyperthermic by 1.2% (p=0.002) in Visual search. Total Mood Disturbance was significant in heat (p<0.001). Hydration status had no major effect in some cognition performance markers except for mood.
Conclusion: The response times and accuracy improved following the cognitive testing in semi-professional athletes exercising in relatively humid, hot conditions. However, semi-professional athletes’ cognitive performances were relatively affected by hypohydration and their hydration status needs to be closely monitored during exercise.
Keywords: cognitive function, hypohydration, intermittent exercise, physiological strain