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The HEAT Is On: Dehydration and Sports

Pro Athletes Not the Only Ones That Need to Worry About Dehydration

A bizarre air conditioning malfunction in game one of the NBA Finals in San Antonio left the Miami HEAT’s biggest star, LeBron James, writhing in pain [1].

Severe cramps in his legs sidelined the team’s leader, and dashed the hopes of a HEAT victory for the game. Temperatures inside the arena climbed to over 90 degrees for most of the contest, creating a potentially dangerous situation for players used to the comforts of a cool venue. The unusually high temperature was caused by an unexplained electrical failure in the power system that runs the AC system in the AT&T Center.

This is not the first time that James has been hard hit by dehydration during the NBA Playoffs or Finals, according to ESPN [2].

Whether you are a world class athlete, a weekend warrior or someone who works outdoors, staying hydrated can be a challenge in South Florida’s sweltering summer sun.

While Harlan Selesnick, M.D. [3], HEAT Team Physician and Doctors Hospital Center for Orthopedics & Sports Medicine [4] orthopedic surgeon, was on the sidelines with James last night, Agueda Hernandez, M.D., [5] shares her thoughts on dehydration.  Losing fluids so rapidly can lead to heat stroke or other dangerous conditions, according to Dr. Hernandez, a Baptist Health South Florida family practice specialist.

“Sweat is our body’s way of keeping cool, but when we perspire we lose body fluids and that can lead to dehydration,” she said. “Drinking water or other fluids is a must before you head outdoors to exercise.”

Dehydration can become a serious health threat. She added: “Severe dehydration requires immediate medical attention, to avoid progression to heat stroke, which can result in death or cause damage to the brain and other internal organs.”

Dr. Hernandez offers these tips on beating the heat:

  • Try to drink at least every 15 to 20 minutes, or as needed.
  • Use a sports drink if you will be exercising for longer than one hour.
  • Do not drink coffee, colas, or other drinks that contain caffeine. They increase urine output and make you dehydrate faster.
  • If you are on a high-protein diet, make sure that you drink at least eight to 12 glasses of water each day.
  • Avoid alcohol, including beer and wine. They increase dehydration and make it hard to make good decisions.
  • If possible, exercise very early in the day or very late to avoid the hottest parts of the day.
  • “My best advice on how to prevent cramps is to not play a basketball game in 100 degree temperatures,” Dr. Selesnick said.