Hyponatraemic encephalopathy despite a modest rate of fluid intake during a 109 km cycle race. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 39(10): e38.

Journal Article


Permanent link to this Item
Journal Title

British Journal of Sports Medicine

Link to Journal
Journal ISSN
Volume Title

University of Cape Town

Objective: To report a case of exertional hyponatraemic encephalopathy that occurred despite a modest rate of fluid intake during a 109 km cycling race. Methods: Men and women cyclists were weighed before and after the race. All subjects were interviewed and their water bottles measured to quantify fluid ingestion. A blood sample was drawn after the race for the measurement of serum Na+ concentration. Results: From the full set of data (n  =  196), one athlete was found to have hyponatraemic encephalopathy (serum [Na+] 129 mmol/l). She was studied subsequently in the laboratory for measurement of sweat [Na+] and sweat rate. Conclusions: Despite a modest rate of fluid intake (735 ml/h) and minimal predicted sweat Na+ losses, this female athlete developed hyponatraemic encephalopathy. The rate of fluid intake is well below the rate currently prescribed as optimum. Drinking to thirst and not to a set hourly rate would appear to be the more appropriate behaviour.