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Too Much Water? For Young Athletes It Can Be a Risk.

by Betsy Kellerman, ATC/LAT

It’s something you hear at every sports practice and sporting event: drink lots of water. Now that temperatures are rising, our instinct is to encourage kids to drink, drink, drink.

Young athletes are more likely to lose water through sweat. So if you start out dehydrated, you won’t get a good workout. Young athletes can get dizzy, lethargic and their muscles won’t work as well which can lead to muscle cramps sooner.

Water helps a body to exercise efficiently and a well-hydrated athlete feels stronger and can work out longer and more effectively. The heart does not have to work as hard to pump blood to the body, and oxygen and nutrients can be transported more efficiently to the muscles working during exercise. This means a young athlete will have more energy, and the same exercises you struggled with when dehydrated will seem much easier.

While it’s healthy to quench your thirst and replenish lost fluids, too much of anything can be a bad thing. In this case, over-hydrating can put a person at risk of hyponatremia, usually found in endurance athletes. This is where sodium in the body is too low from excessive sodium loss in sweat or urine or it is diluted by taking in too much free water without any electrolytes.

Hyponatremia can cause headaches, nausea, dizziness, confusion, muscle cramps, and in severe cases coma, seizures and death. These are difficult as they can also mimic signs of dehydration. We recommend that parents and coaches monitor fluid intake to determine if the symptoms are being caused by excessive fluid intake or very limited intake.

To walk the line between dehydration and over hydration, it’s best to listen to your body. Don’t force yourself to drink excessively but don’t be afraid to drink if you feel thirsty.  

How much water do you need? We recommend taking water breaks every 15 minutes in the heat and one sports drink per hour of exercise is also recommended to replace electrolyte losses.

Consult your primary care physician for more serious injuries that do not respond to basic first aid. As an added resource, the staff at Overland Park Regional Medical Center is available to diagnose and treat sports-related injuries for young athletes. To make an appointment, call (913) 541-3365. For more information about the Sports Medicine Program at Overland Park Regional Medical Center, visit oprmc.com/sportsmedicine.

Betsy Kellerman, ATC/LAT, is the manager of the sports medicine and concussion programs at Overland Park Regional Medical Center. Kellerman attended the University of Wyoming, where she obtained her Bachelor’s Degree in Exercise Physiology and Sports Science and a Bachelor’s Degree in Athletic Training. She also received her Master’s Degree in Sports Management from Nova Southeastern University. Previously, Kellerman managed the University of Wyoming Sports Medicine Department and has worked with all different levels of athletes from Division I College Athletes to youth athletes. Her passion lies with educating parents, coaches and the community on mild traumatic brain injuries, as well as athletic injuries and offering the resources needed to heal.

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