Monday, August 2, 2010

Keeping Our Young Athletes Healthy - Hydration and Sports

It's that time of year - fall sports practices are beginning: football, soccer, cross-country, fall ball, and the list goes on. The Bay Area has had a cool summer so far, but August and September could bring the heat, just when our kids are beginning their fall sports practices.

All athletes need to drink extra fluids to replace body water lost during exercise (e.g. sweat). Youth athletes need to be even more careful to drink extra fluids while exercising and training for their sports. Compared with adults, kids sweat less, do not handle temperature extremes well, get hotter during exercise, and have a lower output of blood from the heart. All of these factors increase the risk of dehydration.

Dehydration can negatively affect sports performance, and worse, is dangerous when it leads to heat exhaustion or heat stroke. Some of the negative effects on sports performance include:

  • muscles cramps
  • headaches
  • fatigue 
  • reduced mental function & concentration 
  • reduced balance 
To avoid dehydration, kids should drink fluids before, during, and after practices and games. Cold water is best in most cases. Youth athletes can also use sports drinks (i.e. Gatorade) if practices are longer than 90 minutes. Avoid carbonated sodas and "energy" drinks because they are too concentrated in sugar and may cause stomachaches, bloating, and nausea during practice. 

Let's keep our kids healthy and performing well by ensuring they have plenty of cold water available before, during, and after their practices and games. Be a proactive parent and talk to your child's coach about water breaks during practices, especially on hot days.

Drink well and play hard!

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