PURPOSE: This study aimed to assess the efficacy of different in-play cooling strategies for mitigating heat strain during simulated tennis match-play activity in a hot/humid environment representing the most extreme conditions during the US Open (36°C, 50% relative humidity).
METHODS: On three occasions, nine males completed an intermittent treadmill protocol with an exercise intensity and activity profile simulating a four-set tennis match, with 90-s breaks between odd-numbered games and 120-s breaks between sets, according to International Tennis Federation rules. During breaks, 1) the currently used cooling strategy-an ice-filled damp towel around the neck and a cold-damp towel on the head and thighs (ICE); 2) wetting of arms, neck, face, and lower legs with a sponge in front of an electric fan (FANwet); or 3) no cooling (CON) were applied. Rectal (Tre) and mean skin (Tsk) temperature and HR were measured throughout. Thermal sensation and RPE were assessed during breaks. Trials were terminated upon reaching a Tre ≥ 39.5°C or volitional exhaustion.
RESULTS: Seven, five, and one participant completed FANwet, ICE, and CON, respectively. By end set 1, ΔTre was lower in FANwet (0.92°C ± 0.15°C) compared with CON (1.09°C ± 0.09°C, P = 0.01), and by end set 2, ΔTre was lower (P < 0.001) in FANwet (1.55°C ± 0.23°C) and ICE (1.59°C ± 0.17°C) compared with CON (1.99°C ± 0.19°C). Mean RPE (FANwet = 13.9 ± 2.2, ICE = 13.6 ± 1.8, CON = 16.6 ± 1.8), HR (FANwet = 163 ± 21, ICE 164 ± 22, CON = 175 ± 19 bpm), Tsk (FANwet = 36.56°C ± 0.69°C, ICE 36.12°C ± 0.44°C, CON = 37.21°C ± 0.42°C), and thermal sensation were lower in FANwet and ICE (P < 0.05) compared with CON by end set 2.
CONCLUSIONS: The currently recommended ICE strategy successfully mitigates thermal strain during simulated tennis match play in hot/humid conditions. The FANwet intervention is an equally effective alternative that may be more practical in limited resource settings.