As the start of school approaches, more athletes are again working out in the heat. Every year a number of tragedies occur as a result of heat related illness. As a result, proper hydration is critical to the prevention of heat related illness.
Dehydration can occur quicker than you think
According to the National Athletic Trainers Association, as little as one hour of exercise can create dehydration levels that significantly increase the risk for heat related illnesses. Athletes can reach this level of dehydration even faster if they begin the workout already dehydrated. It is common for younger players to come to practice already dehydrated. A full day of school, PE, recess and not drinking throughout the day can contribute to dehydration before the practice even begins. One study found more than 50% of kids in summer sports camp programs were dehydrated. Also, it found that 25-30% of them showed signs of serious dehydration. Even 1-2% dehydration can be enough to affect performance. For a 70 pound child, this is less than a 1 pound weight loss. Dehydration is a problem that everyone needs to be aware of and take steps to prevent.
What to do?
The best strategy for proper hydration is: Pre-Hydrate, Hydrate, and Re-Hydrate
Drink 16 ounces of fluid in the morning, and sip water throughout the day. Drink 8-16 ounces. of fluid one to two hours before practice.
Allow players’ unlimited access to water or sports drinks throughout the practice. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends drinking ½ to 1 cup of fluids for every 15 minutes of exercise.
Take breaks every 20 minutes and make sure that ALL players drink fluids during the breaks, whether or not they are thirsty. If an athlete feels thirsty, they are already dehydrated. Signs of dehydration include decreased energy, dizziness, cramping, headaches, body aches and decreased performance. If a player exhibits any of these symptoms, they should be removed from the field of play immediately and given water or sports drink.
Parents and/or coaches should weigh players before and after practice. An athlete should drink at least 16 – 24 ounces of fluid for each pound lost during the workout. Parents and players should also check the color of the athlete’s urine. It should be a very pale yellow. Dark yellow urine indicates the player is already dehydrated.
If parents and coaches are diligent about their athletes consuming fluids and maintaining proper hydration, many heat related problems can be avoided during workouts in hot weather. There are tools available for parents and coaches to assist in managing the fluid intake for their athletes. Several such tools are available for your phone, tablet or computer.