Nutrition and Exercise

Youth Sports Safety: Dehydration Can Amplify Cramps, Strains and Sprains

April is Youth Sports Safety Month and over the next few weeks, a variety of organizations are promoting injury prevention out on the field. The truth is youth sports injuries happen more frequently than you might expect.

According to a USA Today report, in 2012, 1.35 million athletes under 19 years old were affected by a serious sports-related injury. The most common? Strains and sprains. An estimated 450,000+ athletes developed a strain or sprain in 2012.

So for such a common ailment, what’s an effective prevention strategy? Well, aside from pre-season conditioning and pre-practice warm-ups, proper hydration is essential for preventing strains, cramps and spasms.

A wide swath of research has linked dehydration to muscle injuries, and this happens because muscles use fluids and electrolytes to function properly during exercise. So when an athlete is dehydrated, and the body’s supply of fluids and electrolytes is depleted, an athlete can experience more frequent and intense muscle pain.

Why Does Dehydration Worsen Muscle Cramps and Strains?

Some of the most important electrolytes for muscles are sodium and potassium, and incidentally, both are also the most likely to be lost through sweat during intense exercise.

Many studies have examined the link between electrolyte depletion and muscle endurance, and the general consensus is that dehydration wreaks havoc on muscle function.

For instance, several studies highlighted in a National Athletic Trainers Association bulletin confirmed that 3-4 percent dehydration lowers muscle endurance, which increases the risk for strains and sprains. Plus, a 1996 study cited in the bulletin found that in the hotter climates, dehydration’s detrimental effect on muscle endurance happens even faster.

What Can Parents and Coaches Do?

In a recent post, we covered some tips for preventing dehydration in youth sports. Proper hydration requires giving athletes fluids before, during and after practice. And it’s also essential that youth athletes know the symptoms of dehydration.

But for preventing muscle cramps, strains and sprains – adding electrolytes to an athlete’s water bottle can be beneficial. For instance, DripDrop contains a powerful punch of sodium and potassium, which not only speeds up hydration, but also improves muscle endurance, as well.

According to the NATA, athletes participating in high-intensity sports like tennis, cross country and soccer for extended periods should consider adding electrolytes to their beverages. And during the first hot practices of the season, athletes should be adding electrolytes to their water, as well.

Although youth sports injuries are common, the truth is many are preventable. The CDC estimates that half of kids’ sports injuries are avoidable. So this season, help promote youth sports safety with DripDrop.

Image via Flickr.

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