The use of technology compared to the traditional educational methods to improve hydration status of club-level collegiate athletes with a focus on cognitive performance
It is widely documented and accepted that athletes have difficulty maintaining adequate hydration status and that dehydration is a key risk factor for the heat-related illnesses commonly observed among athletes. Research has also suggested that hydration status can influence cognitive performance. Educational interventions focused on rehydration strategies have had minimal success reducing dehydration rates; hence, alternative interventions promoting adequate hydration status in athletes should be explored. This trial examined the efficacy of a commercial hydration mobile application (app) for reducing dehydration rates in campus athletes. Fifty-eight college students aged 18-40 y, who participated in club-level collegiate athletics were recruited from a large Southwestern university and randomized by team to one of two study arms, the Standard of Care – Education (EDU) or the hydration mobile app (APP), to determine if app technology improved hydration status as compared to traditional education messaging. Twenty-three (79%) in the EDU group and twenty (69%) in the APP group were mildly-dehydrated at baseline based on the three-day averages of hydration assessment (USG 1.010). Moreover, 31% (n=9) and 28% (n=8) of the EDU and APP groups, respectively, were dehydrated (USG 1.020). No significant differences were found between the EDU and APP groups following the intervention. Three-day average post-intervention USG testing showed 76% (n=22) and 72% (n=21) of the EDU and APP groups respectively were at best mildly-dehydrated. Additionally, 28% (n=8) and 17% (n=5) were considered dehydrated. Neither intervention improved hydration status after four weeks of treatment. Further analyses of cognitive measures were conducted by hydration assessment groups at baseline and post-intervention: hydrated (HYD) (USG < 1.020) or dehydrated (DEH) (USG 1.020). No significant differences between hydration status were found between intervention groups. Additionally, no significant improvements were seen for either group, which indicates there is still a need for a novel way to improve hydration status in this population. Multi-dimensional interventions and individualized interventions to improve hydration status in this at-risk population may be more effective. Additional research should be conducted to determine if there is any cognitive performance enhancement associated with dehydration or mild-dehydration by reassessing previous data and conducting future trials.