Context: Previous researchers have not investigated the thermoregulatory responses to multiple consecutive days of American football in adolescents.
Objective: To examine the thermoregulatory and hydration responses of high school players during formal preseason football practices.
Design: Observational study.
Setting: Players practiced outdoors in late August once per day on days 1 through 5, twice per day on days 6 and 7, and once per day on days 8 through 10. Maximum wet bulb globe temperature averaged 23 +/- 4 degrees C.
Patients or other participants: Twenty-five heat-acclimatized adolescent boys (age = 15 +/- 1 years, height = 180 +/- 8 cm, mass = 81.4 +/- 15.8 kg, body fat = 12 +/- 5%, Tanner stage = 4 +/- 1).
Main outcome measure(s): We observed participants within and across preseason practices of football. Measures included gastrointestinal temperature (T(GI)), urine osmolality, sweat rate, forearm sweat composition, fluid consumption, testosterone to cortisol ratio, perceptual measures of thirst, perceptual measures of thermal sensation, a modified Environmental Symptoms Questionnaire, and knowledge questionnaires assessing the participants' understanding of heat illnesses and hydration. Results were analyzed for differences across time and were compared between younger (14-15 years, n = 13) and older (16-17 years, n = 12) participants.
Results: Maximum daily T(GI) values remained less than 40 degrees C and were correlated with maximum wet bulb globe temperature (r = 0.59, P = .009). Average urine osmolality indicated that participants generally experienced minimal to moderate hypohydration before (881 +/- 285 mOsmol/kg) and after (856 +/- 259 mOsmol/kg) each practice as a result of replacing approximately two-thirds of their sweat losses during exercise but inadequately rehydrating between practices. Age did not affect most variables; however, sweat rate was lower in younger participants (0.6 +/- 0.2 L/h) than in older participants (0.8 +/- 0.1 L/h) (F(1,18) = 8.774, P = .008).
Conclusions: Previously heat-acclimatized adolescent boys (T(GI) < 40 degrees C) can safely complete the initial days of preseason football practice in moderate environmental conditions using well-designed practice guidelines. Adolescent boys replaced most sweat lost during practice but remained mildly hypohydrated throughout data collection, indicating inadequate hydration habits when they were not at practice.