Children at sports camps this summer may not be properly hydrated

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The American College of Sports Medicine reports that children at sports camps this summer may not be properly hydrated, even if water and sports drinks are accessible and coaches encourage routine drink breaks during activity.

The results of a new study indicate more than two-thirds of kids are dehydrated early on in their participation of sporting activities. This underscores the importance of a good hyrdation strategy for young athletes engaged in continuous bouts of activity.

The study involved 34 boys and 24 girls enrolled in four-day soccer camps in Pennsylvania in July of 2003. The 10 to 14 year-old boys and girls participated in three practice sessions each day. Researchers assessed each subject’s hydration status before the first practice of the day and again after the second practice session. Urine tests defined whether each child was minimally, significantly or seriously dehydrated.

Most of the athletes were dehydrated by the second day of camp. More than half of the girls were seriously dehydrated on this day. By the last day of camp, 59 percent of boys and 70 percent of girls were significantly dehydrated. The results are particularly worrisome, say the researchers, because environmental conditions during testing were relatively mild (for the summer) and pro-active strategies were well in place to encourage hydration.

"It’s a real safety issue when the majority of kids are beginning intense exercise in the heat already dehydrated,” said Douglas Casa, Ph.D., FACSM, lead researcher. “Significant dehydration will likely impair athletic performance and may increase the risk of exertional heat illnesses, such as heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke. The good news is that it is preventable. Developing a fluid replacement strategy before, during, and after activity will encourage athletes to focus on this important component of participation in sports.”

Experts recommend children hydrate with water and drink sports drinks during activity. Fluids before, during and after exercise are an important part of regulating body temperature and replacing body fluids lost through sweat. This can be accomplished by kids being weighed before and after exercise. Additionally, educating youth athletes regarding the importance of hydration and strategies to enhance this process is critical.

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