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Luca Stefanini

Good hydration makes Juventus winners

Interview with Dr Luca Stefanini, Juventus team physician

As regards preparation, how much attention is paid to hydration in the summer pre-season training camp? And in the pre match warm up?

Water is the main constituent of the human body, and represents 50-70% of the total.

Its main functions are the transport of nutrients, its role in metabolic reactions and the regulation of skin temperature.

Adequate water consumption is essential for athletes, especially those whose sporting activities last longer than 50-60 minutes.

The higher the ambient temperature, the greater the loss of heat which the body achieves through perspiration; it's therefore essential, in ambient conditions like those typical of the pre-season training camp, to pay greater attention to the amount of water consumed before, during and after training sessions, to sustain constant fluid levels in the body. During the pre-season training camp, the athletes have to get into the habit of drinking more water.

It's also important to drink water during the pre-match warm up: sportsmen should never suffer from thirst, a stimulus which is only activated when free circulating water in the body (about 2 litres) has been used up, leading to a rapid loss of physical efficiency.

To what extent can dehydration impact on a footballer's competitive performance?

Loss of water and electrolytes after abundant perspiration, if not adequately replaced, can initially, with a water loss of 1-5% in relation to body weight, lead to thirst, loss of appetite, tachycardia and a rise in body temperature; subsequently (loss of 6-10%), it can lead to dizziness, headache, breathing problems and “pins and needles”; finally (11-20%), first fatigue, spasms and widespread abdominal and muscle pains occur, then the more serious symptoms of heat stroke.

This is why dehydration is absolutely detrimental to sporting performance.

What influence do different atmospheric conditions have on a footballer's state of hydration?

The quantity of water exchanged with the external environment varies with the ambient temperature; the higher the temperature, the greater the water loss through perspiration.

It's important to have a heat acclimatisation programme; this will consist of progressively longer periods of exercise in the heat, during which athletes have to get used to drinking more water.

In the Juventus training programmes, how important is hydration considered to be in giving a competitive advantage?

The Juventus medical staff take great care to monitor the athletes' state of hydration and to implement simple strategies to prevent dehydration. Training schedules provide regular breaks to allow the footballers to drink water and, both before and after training sessions, every footballer is regularly urged to drink water.

How much fluid does a footballer lose on average during a match?

When body temperature rises, as it does during periods of prolonged, intense physical activity, often in high temperatures, the body activates the heat loss mechanism of perspiration and evaporation, which can be as high as 3 litres an hour.

From your experience, can you remember any cases - now or in the past - of footballers getting dehydrated?

It's often the case that at the end of very intensive matches played in hot weather, anti doping urine tests are unreliable: this is a problem linked to excessive fluid loss due to perspiration, which fortunately has nothing to do with real dehydration symptoms, which can cause serious health problems.

However, it isn't unusual to see footballers with muscle pain after a match that can last for several hours, combined with a marked sense of lethargy and possible urinary tract problems.