Wrestlers' Quick Weight Loss May Cause Mental Confusion

Loss of 4% or more of body mass could affect decision-making, researchers say

MONDAY, April 18 (HealthDay News) -- Rapid weight loss in the days before a wrestling match can increase confusion but has no effect on strength, a new study finds.

U.S. researchers examined the physical and mental effects of "weight cutting" in 16 collegiate wrestlers. Ten days before competing, the wrestlers were weighed and underwent psychological and strength tests. They could then choose a desired amount of weight to lose before the match, using methods such as exercise, calorie restriction and fluid deprivation.

The wrestlers were weighed again in the days before the match, and the psychological and strength tests were repeated on the day of the competition.

The wrestlers lost up to 8 percent of their body mass, and the average weight loss was about six pounds. Even though they had 10 days to lose weight, they lost nearly all their weight in the two days before the match.

The researchers found that wrestlers who lost 4 percent or more of their body mass had significantly higher levels of confusion on the day of the competition. There was no increased confusion for those who lost less than 4 percent of their body mass.

Body mass reduction had no effect on other psychological functions or on grip strength or lower body power, said the researchers at California State University, Fullerton.

The study is published in the April issue of the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.

It's common for wrestlers to reduce body mass before a meet in an attempt to gain a competitive edge in their weight class, but in "a sport which requires split-second decision making, a higher state of confusion and tension can detrimentally affect the wrestler's performance," the researchers noted in a journal news release.

More information

The U.S. National Institutes of Health has more about safe weight loss.

Robert Preidt SOURCE: Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, news release, April 14, 2011

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