Effects of sports drinks on the maintenance of physical performance during 3 tennis matches: a randomized controlled study

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Abstract Background Tennis tournaments often involve playing several consecutive matches interspersed with short periods of recovery. Objective The objective of this study was firstly to assess the impact of several successive tennis matches on the physical performance of competitive players and secondly to evaluate the potential of sports drinks to minimize the fatigue induced by repeated matches. Methods This was a crossover, randomized controlled study. Eight male regionally-ranked tennis players participated in this study. Players underwent a series of physical tests to assess their strength, speed, power and endurance following the completion of three tennis matches each of two hours duration played over three consecutive half-days (1.5 day period for each condition). In the first condition the players consumed a sports drink before, during and after each match; in the second, they drank an identical volume of placebo water. The results obtained were compared with the third ‘rest’ condition in which the subjects did not play any tennis. Main outcomes measured were maximal isometric strength and fatigability of knee and elbow extensors, 20-m sprint speed, jumping height, specific repeated sprint ability test and hand grip strength. Results The physical test results for the lower limbs showed no significant differences between the three conditions. Conversely, on the upper limbs the EMG data showed greater fatigue of the triceps brachii in the placebo condition compared to the rest condition, while the ingestion of sports drinks attenuated this fatigue. Conclusions This study has demonstrated for the first time that, when tennis players are adequately hydrated and ingest balanced meals between matches, then no large drop in physical performance is observed even during consecutive competitive matches. Trial registration ClinicalTrials.gov: NCT01353872 .