Researchers at the University of Windsor investigated whether the incidence of concussion increased along with the temperature. The research team found that a loss of just 2% of the body’s water volume to dehydration can lead to a significant reduction in the amount of cerebrospinal (CSF) fluid that a person has, which acts as a cushion to protect the brain inside the skull during jarring movements. As such, for football players playing games in hot and humid conditions, the combination of hot weather and dehydration can create significant risk factors for suffering a concussion.
The researchers compiled data on 420 NCAA FBS game-time concussions that occurred during games played outside over a 5-year period (2008 to 2012), according to a Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) news release. Researchers also looked at environmental conditions, including humidity, wind speed, and temperature, during those games. The authors of the study write, “We were initially interested in the link between dehydration and concussion frequency/severity.”
The researchers hypothesized that if a relationship existed, they would be able to observe an increase in concussion frequency during games that took place under extreme conditions. But given the primary playing season (i.e., Fall), very few games were played in environmental extremes. Additionally, the high level of competition likely insured that athletes were well prepared for games in all conditions, as indicated on the FASEB news release.
In the end, the overall rates of concussions were consistent across game time temperatures, but a link between dehydration and concussion rate may still exist.
Source: Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology