What do you know about proper hydration and your youth athlete?  Based on a personal experience with my 12-year-old son Mason in 2016, my eyes were opened about the risks and realities of dehydration, heat exhaustion and heat stroke.  This analysis is not meant to strike fear or to sell a product, but it does put into perspective how much we spend on our children to play competitive sports, and recommends putting that into the context of ensuring we invest in keeping our youth athletes hydrated.

So, for context, I spent $300 on my son’s middle infield baseball glove, $400 on a big-barrel bat, $195 on spike cleats and we have monthly dues of $200 for his competitive club 13U baseball team. Add on top of this travel costs, individual lessons, hitting nets, tee’s and more, and my son’s obsession with baseball costs more in one season than I spent on my first car. Oh, and now he is also playing tackle football. Yeah, it is getting a bit ridiculous, and I know I am not alone—according to this 2016 article in USA Today, youth sports is a staggering $9 billion industry.

In June of 2016, my son was 12 years old and his club baseball team went to Cooperstown NY to play in one of the highly coveted tournaments.  It really was a great experience for him on almost every level: staying in the bunks with his team and traveling across the country to compete against talented players from states he had only seen on a map.

The entire Cooperstown experience was about $3,100. But it almost cost us a lot more.

On the second tournament day in Cooperstown, Mason was moving a little slower. He was still playing quite well, but we could see signs of exhaustion emerging. It was the third inning, and he was on the bump and pitching a very good game. It was then that I first noticed him pinching his side. In the middle of the third, he came up to bat. He crushed one to the opposite field that could have been a triple, but we saw him slow down and take a double, very out of character for him.  His team won and after, as the adrenaline started to subside, he looked terrible.

Instead of going back to the bunks with this team (one of the coolest parts of the experience), he looked at my wife and me and asked if he could go back to our hotel. I was a bit shocked, but when he started to complain about cramps, and was not interested in having something to drink, I started to do the math: he was dehydrated.

Most of us know dehydration is not a good thing, but many of us are not familiar with what it can lead to: heat exhaustion, heat stroke and potentially death. Worldwide, it’s estimated that one in five childhood deaths result from dehydration-related causes. In 2001, Minnesota Vikings tackle Korey Stringer died of a heat stroke. I, of course sadly remember when this happened. But in my mind, I was not connecting the dots between a tragedy like Korey’s death and my 12-year-old son playing competitive baseball. But the connection is there.  It is there for all of us who have boys and girls that are playing a competitive sport (often termed elite, club or travel), where they are losing more water (primarily through sweat) than they are consuming.

We got Mason back to our hotel and he was very “clammy,” said he could not keep his eyes open and felt like he had a touch of a fever, all bad signs.  Luckily, we got him some electrolytes and a lot of water, and he was fine by the next morning.  However, my wife and I felt stupid. How could we spend so much money and time on this youth sport, and be ignorant to something that could be as dangerous as dehydration?

I started doing some research and found a 2013 study featured in Medical Daily. The study read:

CBS reports that while most people know perfectly well that water is the way to go, up to 75 percent of the American population falls short of the 10 daily cups prescribed by the Institute of Medicine – which, in medical terms, means that most people in the U.S are functioning in a chronic state of dehydration.”

The article continued quoting Grace Webb, Assistant Director for Clinical Nutrition at New York Hospital.

“Water is necessary for the body to digest and absorb vitamins and nutrients. It’s also key to proper digestion; it detoxifies the liver and kidneys, and carries waste away. If your urine becomes darkly colored like this, we’re dehydrated. The urine should be light, straw colored.”

This was something else Mason noticed when we got back to the hotel—another sure sign of dehydration.

Another interesting analysis focused on sports and young athletes. Heads Up Football provided an enlightening statement in a 2016 blog entitled “Identifying and treating dehydration, heat exhaustion and heat stroke”

“Even though NFL players and teams are dealing with dehydration, the true risk is among young athletes. According to the Mayo Clinic, the central nervous system in young adults…is not fully developed…which makes your body less able to cope with changes in body temperature.”

The same blog continued, stating, “The topic of heat stroke is timely. According to published research in the American Journal of Sports Medicine, ‘The 5-year period of 2005-2009 saw more exertional heat stroke-related deaths in organized sports than any other 5-year period in the past 35 years.’”

OK, so 75 percent of Americans are chronically dehydrated; we need water to digest the vitamins and nutrients we take in; youth athletes represent the “true risk” and cases of heat-related strokes have been on the rise. Seriously?  Again, I am not putting this in writing to scare you—I am just trying to share what I have learned.

For me, when I put the costs for my son to play competitive baseball in context (I have not even gotten into the expenses for his new football obsession), it is time to care less about how cool that Wilson A3000 looks on his left hand while he is playing short, and care more about ensuring he is properly hydrated.

 

Please note that this information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. We insist that you always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical/health condition or treatment and before initiating a new health care regime. Do not disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on the STYR app or on www.MyNutritioniQ.com.

If you are interested to hear more and receive personalized nutrition, check out STYR’s app, fitness tracker and suite of connected smart devices. Through the platform, you can track and log activity, food, hydration, sleep, nutrition, mood and more to personalize your nutrition needs based on data, science and access to registered dietitians, nutritionists and personal trainers.

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