Beat the heat, stay hydrated

Published 12:00 am Saturday, August 14, 2004

High School football practices are in full gear and it isn’t getting any


Coaches should be reminded of precautions to take on the practice field in the blistering heat.

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Over the years, several heat-related deaths occurred across the United States during August football practices. Even though it’s been an unseasonably wet summer, parents I’m sure are still worried about the blistering heat fearing for their child’s health as they practice on the gridiron this year.

Below are some simple tips and guidelines coaches should keep in mind to help prevent heat-related illnesses:

n Drink according to a schedule based on fluid needs.

n Drink before, during and after practices and games.

n Drink 17-20 ounces of water or sports drinks with six to eight percent carbohydrate (CHO) two to three house before exercise.

n Drink early. By the time you’re thirsty, you’re already dehydrated.

n In general, drink at least 7 to 10 ounces of water or sports drink every 10 to 20 minutes, maintain hydration, and remember to drink beyond your thirst.

n Drink fluids based on the amount of sweat and urine loss.

n Within two hours, drink enough to replace any weight loss from exercise.

n Drink approximately 20 to 24 ounces of sports drink per pound of weight loss.

n Dehydration usually occurs with weight loss of two percent of body weight or more.

What not to drink

n Drinks with CHO concentrations of greater than eight percent should be avoided.

n Fruit juices, CHO gels, sodas and sports drinks that

have a CHO concentration greater than six to eight percent

are not recommended as the sole beverages during exercise.

n Beverages containing caffeine, alcohol and carbonation are not to be used because of the high risk of dehydration associated with excess urine production or decreased voluntary fluid intake.

What to drink

n If exercise is intense or lasts more than 45 to 50 minutes, a sports drink should be provided during the session.

n The CHO concentration in the ideal fluid replacement solution should be in the range of six to eight percent.

n During events when a high rate of fluid intake is necessary to sustain hydration, sports drinks with less than seven percent CHO should be used to optimize fluid delivery. These sports drinks have a faster gastric emptying rate and thus aid hydration.

n Sports drinks with a CHO content of 10 percent have a slow gastric emptying rate and thus contribute to dehydration. They should be avoided during exercise.

n Fluids with salt are beneficial to increasing thirst and voluntary fluid intake as well as offsetting the amount of fluid lost with sweat.

n Salt should never be added to drinks, and salt tablets should be avoided.

n Cool beverages at temperatures between 50 to 59 degrees Fahrenheit are recommended for best results with replacement.

Below are five common heat-related illnesses that athletes are subject to:

Heat Cramps – Painful cramps involving abdominal muscles and extremities, caused by intense, prolonged exercise in the heat and depletion of salt and water due to profuse sweating.

Heat Syncope – Weakness, fatigue and fainting due to loss of salt and water in sweat and exercise in heat, which predisposes one to heatstroke.

Heat exhaustion (Water Depletion) – Excessive weight loss, reduced sweating, elevated skin and core body temperature, excessive thirst, weakness, headache and sometimes unconsciousness.

Heat Exhaustion (Salt Depletion) – Exhaustion, nausea, vomiting, muscle cramps and dizziness due to profuse sweating and inadequate replacement of body salts.

Heatstroke – An acute medical emergency related to thermoregulatory failure, associated with nausea, seizures, disorientation and possible unconsciousness or coma. It may occur suddenly without being preceded by any other clinical signs. The individual is usually unconscious with a high body temperature and hot, dry skin.

(Contrary to popular belief, heat stroke victims may sweat profusely.)

Coaches, please take note of these precautions, tips and warning signs of heat-related illnesses. Keep a copy of them at your desk and study them often. You may even want to keep a copy of them in your playbook for quick reference.

Unfortunately, I’ve had to write several stories on high school football players that have fallen out in practice. Sometimes those players have ended up fine and able to continue on, but in a few cases the players have been forced to end their football careers.

Heat isn’t something that anyone, much less an athlete should take a chance with.

Winning isn’t worth dying for.

Adam Prestridge is sports editor of The Greenville Advocate. He can be reached at 382-3111, ext. 122 or by e-mail: