Between 50 and 75 percent of boys and girls attending summer sports camps are significantly dehydrated, according to recent studies. The studies found that 25 to 30 percent of the campers studied showed signs of serious dehydration, putting them at increased risk of heat-related illnesses.
The campers were dehydrated despite the availability of water and sports drinks, frequent breaks and coaches' encouragement to stay hydrated. The studies also showed that, once children are dehydrated, it is "nearly impossible for them to catch up."
Hydration knowledge not enough
The children, ages 9 to 16, also suffered significant dehydration despite an overwhelming display of knowledge and positive attitudes about healthy hydration habits, said Douglas Casa, a certified athletic trainer, lead researcher in the studies, and the Director of the Korey Stringer Institute at the University of Connecticut.
"Most campers thought they were doing a pretty good job of staying hydrated during the day, but their thirst level during practice was not a good indicator of their hydration status," Casa said. "Obviously, there's a gap between their knowledge and their actual behavior."
Thirst not indicator of hydration status
"They can't just rely on their thirst. They need an actual hydration strategy a plan," Casa said.
"We're trying to keep the campers well-hydrated so they won't have athletic performance issues or put themselves at risk for heat-related illnesses," Casa said. "We also want them to have better hydration strategies in hand going into their high school and collegiate athletic programs, which will be even more rigorous and where the consequences of dehydration could be even greater."
The critical importance of hydration for athletes was highlighted by the National Center for Catastrophic Sport Injury Research's Annual Survey of Football Injuries (1), which reported 5 heat-related deaths among high school football players in 2011, but only one in 2012.
"There is no excuse for any number of heat stroke deaths since they are all preventable with proper precautions," writes Frederick O. Mueller, Ph.D., Chairman, American Football Coaches Committee on Football Injuries, and Director of the Center."
1. Mueller F, Colgate B. Annual Survey of Football Injury Research 1931-2012.
Revised May 28, 2013