Cooling and Hydration for the Para Athlete
Core temperature regulation is paramount for optimizing athletic performance and delaying the onset of fatigue. Many Para athletes face unique challenges in regards to thermoregulation and hydration. For example, athletes with spinal cord injuries (SCIs) have an impaired ability to thermoregulate due to a decreased sweat rate and ability to dissipate heat, thus making activity in the heat a challenge. There are several methods by which athletes can be actively cooled before and/or during exercise in the heat. Although research in Para athletes is limited, it is also likely that heat acclimation will benefit Para athletes who are going to compete in warm environments. Finally, helping the athlete understand their personal daily hydration needs and sweat rates, and how this changes in different environmental conditions, can help them set their own fluid intake target to avoid both over- and underhydrating during exercise as well as over the whole day. This chapter discusses strategies for cooling, heat acclimation and assessing and developing individualised hydration plans for Para athletes.