With football practice beginning in the hot August heat, athletes are encouraged to stay hydrated. However, drinking too much can be fatal.
In 2017, a football coach from the University of Texas created a urine-based “Longhorn Football Chart,” which designates players with yellow or brown urine and labels them as “selfish” or a “bad guy” respectively. This pushed the athletes to keep up their water consumption rate so they would not get dehydrated.
Not having enough to drink is bad, and having too much can be as bad. In August 2014, Walker Wilbanks, a high school football player, died in Mississippi from overhydration. The official cause of death is listed as an “unpredictable freak occurrence.”
Two weeks later in Georgia, another high school student-athlete drank two gallons of Gatorade and two gallons of water after practice to prevent muscle cramps. He died from a medical condition known as exercise-associated hyponatremia or overhydration.
Hyponatremia is caused by lower than normal salt levels due to overconsumption of or sports drinks. Any drop in blood salt levels from drinking from more than the body can hold causes all cells to swell. Brain Swelling from exercise-associated hyponatremia results in headaches and vomiting while cell swelling can produce whole body muscle cramping.
There are at least two recorded deaths of athletes in the past four years from overhydration. During that same period, there are no records of athletes dying from dehydration, but seven died from heatstroke.
Written By Jenaz Shorter
Edited by Cathy Milne
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