Hydration of Athletes — “Under-hydration and Over-hydration Creates Risk!”

By Doyice Cotten

9519036703_3afbe914e1_m-1Each Summer and Fall in the deep South, coaches and athletes repeatedly hear “stay hydrated.” As football practices begin in August with the high Southern humidity and the temperatures running 90, 95, and even higher, coaches and players hear the mantra over and over. . .” stay hydrated.” And each year some players fail to do so and suffer heat stroke, heat exhaustion, and sometimes death.

While this is good advice, many recently learned for the first time that an athlete can become “over-hydrated” and risk injury or death.

A Douglas County High School football player after practice consumed too many liquids and died as a result of over-hydration.  The 17 year-old collapsed at home in Georgia last week after drinking two gallons of water and two gallons of Gatorade to stop cramps during practice.  Doctors reported that Oliver suffered massive swelling around the brain from over-hydration.

While this incident is certainly a rarity, it does serve as a warning that over-hydration may be as dangerous as under-hydration. But what is a school supposed to do?

Risk Management Thoughts

  1. Be certain all coaches receive adequate training regarding heat-related illnesses.
  2. Best practice would dictate a trained athletic trainer on staff and present when temperature levels might create a hazard.
  3. Administration should see that all coaches adhere to State Athletic Association Guidelines regarding practice time allowed and equipment/clothing used at high temperature levels.

Photo Credit: Thanks to Rob “Shawdog” Helfman at Flickr