The effect of environmental temperature on health outcomes and match play characteristics in professional tennis matchplay

Publication Type:
Thesis
Issue Date:
2019
Full metadata record
This thesis examines the relationship between estimated wet bulb globe temperature (WBGT) and heat-related medical consults, the occurrence of heat illness and changes in matchplay performance at the Australian Open (AO). To do this, whole match and set-by-set match characteristics data from the first four rounds of the 2014 - 2016 AO men’s and women’s main draw was collated. From this data set, whole match characteristics, change in first to last set performance, and the set-to-set standard deviation of match characteristics were collected and collated in to WBGT zone according to the American College of Sport Medicines (ACSM) extreme heat policy (EHP). Individual generalised linear models (GLM) were conducted to assess the effect of estimated WBGT zones on heat related events/medical outcomes, matchplay characteristics, within match changes in matchplay characteristics and the set-to-set standard deviation of matchplay characteristics. Further, medical events were also assessed as a rate per 1000/h of matchplay per WBGT zone. The key findings from these studies were: • There were 3 heat illness retirements in the men’s competition at the AO between 2014 and 2016, and no heat illness retirements in the women’s competition. • Each increase in match estimated WBGT was significantly (p<0.05) associated with increases in post-match heat related consultations with doctors (87% men; 68% women), and total on court heat-related events (55% men; 56% women). Further, conditions >32°C estimated WBGT had the greatest increase in heat related events, when examined as a rate per 1000h of matchplay. • Increased estimated WBGT resulted in a significant reduction in net approaches in both the men’s (7.6% ± 0.01; p<0.001) and women’s (8.4 ± 0.02%; p<0.001) competition. • Matchplay in hot conditions significantly affected whole-match serve performance in both the men’s and women’s competition; with men increasing the number of aces (5.0 ± 0.018; p=0.003), while women increased their number of double faults (13.8 ± 0.029; p<0.001) per WBGT zone. • Increased match estimated WBGT lead to an increase in set duration (3.31 ± 1.02%; p=0.001) and unforced errors (0.16 ± 0.37%; p=0.002) from the first to last set of matchplay in the heat in the women’s competition, while there was also a reduction in the percentage of points won on first serve (-2.17 ± 1.07%; p=0.04). In the men’s competition, there was no significant (p>0.05) change in performance from the first to last set of matchplay in the heat. • Matchplay in hotter conditions (increased WBGT) lead to a reduction in the set-to-set consistency (standard deviation) of set duration (0.910 ± 0.43%; p=0.033), total points won (1.52 ± 0.58%; p=0.008) and net approaches (1.21 ± 0.58%; p=0.049) in the men’s competition. With the women’s competition showing a reduction in the set-to-set consistency of set duration (2.16 ± 1.89%; p=0.05) and conversion of break points won (3.65 ± 1.89%; p=0.05) during matchplay in the heat. The above-mentioned findings suggest that during Grand Slam matchplay in conditions above 32°C estimated WBGT tournaments medical staff should be vigilant and prepared for an increase in heat related consultations. Tournament organisers should also look to avoid matchplay in such conditions by scheduling matches outside the hottest periods of the day if hot conditions are expected. The above-mentioned findings also suggest that matchplay in extreme heat will result in subtle changes to matchplay performance in both the men’s and women’s competition, with the whole match reduction in the use of net approaches in both the men’s and women’s competition showing the most significant change. The reduction in the use of net approaches suggest that competitors were attempting to reduce the use of aggressive matchplay tactics, likely an attempt to reduce match intensity or selectively conserve effort for select passages of play. The increase in whole-match aces in hot conditions in men suggests either risker serving strategies, or reduced pressure from the returner. In either case, matchplay tactics for the serve likely attempted to reduce point durations in the heat. In the women’s competition, there was an increase in the whole match double fault count, and a progressive reduction in the percentage of points won on first serve during matchplay in the heat. This alteration to points won on first serve suggests a reduced dominance during service games and/or an increase in fatigue throughout matchplay in the heat.
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