Heat puts football players at risk for overheating, dehydration

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. — High school football players you’ll see in our Friday Night Frenzy won’t have those nice cool and breezy fall conditions we typically see at games. Instead, it’ll feel like they’re playing in the middle of summer.

Dr. Jonathan Leake at the new hydration clinic in Dilworth says they could be at risk of overheating and dehydration.

“It’s kind of opened everybody’s eyes to, this is a real situation that’s maybe been ignored a little bit,” Leake said, “Athletes aren’t necessarily going to think to hydrate on their own because they’re so busy playing the sport.”

Even when the games kickoff at night, temperatures will still be in the high 80s to low 90s. Wearing more than 20 pounds of pads, including a helmet, can actually restrict your body from sweating and cooling itself down.

“The body uses the head and the upper torso a lot to kind of get rid of heat through sweat, and so blocking those areas, you’re blocking one of the body’s main resources to get rid of it,” Leake said.

Some early signs are cramps, headaches and dizziness.

Jed Hartigen over at Velocity Sports Performance says those symptoms can put football players at risk to injure themselves in other ways, too.

“Once you lose that mental focus, your performance will decrease and that can lead to injuries,” Hartigen said, “You’re not in the right spot at the right time, or technically you’re not moving correctly and you might tear an ACL or something.”

What about over-hydrating? Earlier this month, Zyrees Oliver, of Douglasville, Georgia, died after he drank too much water and Gatorade during a football practice. Leake says that’s an extremely rare occurrence.

“We’re talking drinking a gallon or two of water in a very short time period.”

Both Leake and Hartigen say drinking water throughout the day, even up to just 20 minutes before the game, is the best way for the teams to prepare for the heat they’ll be playing in.