Sweat losses in team sports can be significant due to repeated bursts of high-intensity activity, as well as the large body size of athletes, equipment and uniform requirements, and environmental heat stress often present during training and competition. In this paper we aimed to: (1) describe sweat losses and fluid balance changes reported in team sport athletes, (2) review the literature assessing the impact of hypohydration on cognitive, technical, and physical performance in sports-specific studies, (3) briefly review the potential mechanisms by which hypohydration may impact team sport performance, and (4) discuss considerations for future directions. Significant hypohydration (mean body mass loss (BML) >2%) has been reported most consistently in soccer. Although American Football, rugby, basketball, tennis, and ice hockey have reported high sweating rates, fluid balance disturbances have generally been mild (mean BML <2%), suggesting that drinking opportunities were sufficient for most athletes to offset significant fluid losses. The effect of hydration status on team sport performance has been studied mostly in soccer, basketball, cricket, and baseball, with mixed results. Hypohydration typically impaired performance at higher levels of BML (3-4%) and when the method of dehydration involved heat stress. Increased subjective ratings of fatigue and perceived exertion consistently accompanied hypohydration and could explain, in part, the performance impairments reported in some studies. More research is needed to develop valid, reliable, and sensitive sport-specific protocols and should be used in future studies to determine the effects of hypohydration and modifying factors (e.g., age, sex, athlete caliber) on team sport performance.
Sports Med. [Epub ahead of print]