Tips to stay hydrated as summer high school practices begin

USA TODAY High School Sports and the National Athletic Trainers’ Association have partnered on a monthly column to address injuries, prevention and related issues to help schools, coaches and student-athletes. Here is the latest column from Scott Sailor, the president of NATA.

Wilson Memorial High School's athletic trainer Susanna Larner and senior Kylie Ritts refill bottles with water during the first day of football practice on Thursday, July 28, 2016.

Wilson Memorial High School (Virginia) athletic trainer Susanna Larner and senior Kylie Ritts refill bottles with water during the first day of football practice.

The summer heat is not going away any time soon and, as an athlete, you need to keep your body hydrated before your sports activity, as well as during practice, workouts and games. It’s important for your athletic performance and your health. By preventing dehydration (not enough fluid) and hyponatremia (too much fluid), you will help keep your heart rate, core body temperature and fatigue in check.

There are several signs and symptoms of dehydration and hyponatremia to consider. Initial signs of dehydration include thirst, irritability and general discomfort. If dehydration progresses, signs and symptoms might also include headache, cramps, chills, vomiting, nausea, head or neck heat sensations, and decreased performance.

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Early signs of hyponatremia include irritability, general discomfort and headache. If hyponatremia progresses, swollen hands and feet, altered levels of consciousness, mood changes and muscle twitching might also be observed.

It might be difficult to differentiate between dehydration and hyponatremia because the symptoms overlap. However, if you think back to your intake throughout the day, you should be able to tell if you’ve had too much or too little.

Tips to prevent dehydration and hyponatremia:

  • Drink about eight cups of fluid a day, or more when you’re physically active. Water or sports drinks are ideal.
  • For activity, it’s good to know your personal sweat rate. To measure this, take your weight (in kilograms) before and after working out 30 minutes in the heat. Don’t drink fluids during this workout. The difference in your body weight (pre-exercise body weight minus post-exercise body weight) multiplied by two equals your sweat rate in liters per hour. This is how many liters per hour you lose for that workout’s intensity and environmental conditions.
  • During activity, you should drink an amount close to your personal sweat rate. Typical sweat rate ranges from 1 to 3 liters per hour. (Many drink bottles hold approximately one liter of fluid when filled.) It’s normal to lose weight during activity, but losing no more than 2 percent of your body weight by the end of activity is best. Weighing yourself before and after activity is another good way to determine your hydration during activity.
  • Don’t try a new beverage or hydration plan on game day. Try different drinks in advance to make sure they work for you before consuming them during competition. You want to make sure your stomach can handle what you put into it during activity.
  • Keep water or sports drinks nearby. Individual containers are ideal so that when you get a break, drinking requires little effort.
  • Choose your flavor or type of drink and, whenever possible, keep your beverages on ice. You’re more likely to drink up if you like the flavor and it’s cold.

BEAT THE HEAT: How to keep student-athletes safe in the summer months

Proper hydration and fluid balance are important throughout the year, whether you’re indoors or outside, but they’re especially important for sports participation in the heat. Using these tips will help avoid dehydration and hyponatremia, allowing for safe activity and success on the field.

For advice on the right hydration plan for you, talk to your school’s athletic trainer. Also, visit for additional sports safety tips for parents and athletes.

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