Proper hydration is crucial to the performance of any athlete at any age. Surprisingly, a more critical element in an athlete’s diet isn’t what they eat but what, how much, and when they drink. The hydration needs of pre-adolescent children are higher compared to adults. Coaches and parents should ensure that their young athletes are drinking enough fluids.
When a child exercises, their body temperature rises as their muscles, generate heat. They sweat as their bodies get hot and their sweat evaporates as they cool down. A child needs to replace the water lost by sweating by drinking the adequate amount of fluids; otherwise, they upset their body’s water balance and run the risk of becoming overheated.
To avoid dehydration, it is vital for your young athletes to consume fluids before, during, and after a game or practice. Some coaches and parents promote the drinking of fluids for children by offering them what kids feel is a more exciting alternative to plain water. Sports drinks increase voluntary drinking by almost 90% in children ensuring they are drinking enough.
Here is a guide sheet to making sure your young athletes are meeting their hydration requirements:
Before a game/practice
● Drinking fluids before the big game or practice will reduce the effects of dehydration.
● A good meal with containing water like fruits
● 1 to 2 hours before sports: 4 to 8 ounces of cold water
● 10 to 15 minutes before sports: 4 to 8 ounces of cold water
During the game/practice
● Any time a child feels thirsty
● During timeouts or breaks
● Every 20 minutes: 5 to 9 ounces of a sports drink, depending on weight (5 for a child weighing 88 pounds, 9 ounces for a child weighing 132 pounds)
● Encourage the ability to drink whenever they want and not to wait until they are told to take a break
Adjust fluid needs based on the weather, the amount of equipment worn, and duration and intensity exerted at the game or practice.
Be mindful that kids do not over-drink as this may cause hyponatremia.
After the game/practice
The purpose of post-game hydration is to correct any lost fluids during the game or practice, helping the body recover from the exercise.
● 30 minutes after the game or practice, sports drink containing protein and carbohydrates such as chocolate milk are ideal to not only re-hydrate but also helps the body recover by enhancing muscle repair and replenish glycogen stores in the muscles.
● Replace all fluids that may have been lost after the game or practice through urination.
● Eat a good meal with foods that contain water.
For any athlete, the last thing they would want is to be sidelined with an injury on the day of the big game. Coaches and parents should be keen on teaching young athletes how to prevent injury that not only causes them to miss the game that they love but could lead to something more severe if they do not heal correctly. To avoid sports injuries, follow these 5 general guidelines:
1. Wear appropriate protective gear and equipment
The gear depends on the game being played. Helmets are the most common protective gear and are worn while playing football, hockey, baseball, biking, softball, etc. These sports are high-impact and may lead to head injuries which are why there is an emphasis on head protection.
Other sports may require other protective gear that includes mouth guards, knee pads, guards for elbows and knees, eye protection, and for boys, protective cups.
Protective equipment includes wearing the right shoes for the sport being played. For example, sports like football, baseball, softball, and soccer require cleats which have special rubber or plastic points on the soles that grip the ground; these shoes are specially made for the ground that these sports are played on and not wearing them could lead to serious injury.
2. Warm up
A proper warm up is crucial to preventing sports injuries. When muscles are cold, they are more susceptible to injuries. The warm up could be specific to the sport you play. For example, swinging the bat for baseball or stretching for sports that require you to do a good amount of running. A light aerobic activity before the game is ideal to get loosened up.
3. Don’t play when you are already injured or not in peak condition
If you always feel a strain or any pain, you should not be playing. Adding more pressure on an already injured leg or arm could lead to more severe injuries. Be honest with your parents and coach if you suspect that you have an existing injury. It is not worth the risk to play when you are not in peak condition. This applies to if you are feeling unwell. Having a fever, a headache, or an upset stomach could all lead to injury or accident on the court or field.
4. Know the rules of the game and proper technique
When players know what is legal and what is not, injuries are less likely to occur. When all players know the rules of the game, there are no surprises or anyone acting out of line. When players know exactly how to behave, they won’t attempt to perform illegal moves that could potentially hurt another player or put them in harm’s way.
5. Hydrate and re-hydrate before, during, and after the game
Adequate fluids are crucial to avoid dehydration during a game. It is critical for athletes to drink the adequate amounts of water before, during, and after a game to replenish any fluids lost through sweat caused by their bodies heating up during play. Without proper hydration, an athlete may become overheated which leads to fatigue, confusion, fainting, nausea, and vomiting. Remember, sports injuries can include illnesses brought on by sports and could be just as difficult to recover from.