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Most athletes dehydrated, group reports

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WASHINGTON, Aug 18, 2005 (United Press International via COMTEX) -- As football teams begin practice in the August heat, an expert panel is reporting that most athletes show up to practice dehydrated -- and they don't drink enough water during the session to recoup.

"What we've found is that most players typically begin practice dehydrated -- pretty significantly dehydrated," Dr. Michael F. Bergeron, the panel's co-chair, said in a statement. "Young players generally just don't drink enough, especially following extensive exercise or training in the heat."

Dehydration was just one concern raised by the panel, which was convened by the American College of Sports Medicine. In the August issue of Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, the experts also report:

-- Coaches need to acclimatize players to heat and exertion and should avoid beginning twice-daily sessions until week two. There should always be a one-day break between multiple-session days.

-- Uniforms and protective equipment should be introduced in stages to cut the risk of heat injury -- first the helmet, then the shoulder pads, then the whole uniform.

-- Preseason medical exams should rule out heart problems and also determine what supplements players might be taking.

"Most heat-related injuries and deaths occur within the first four days of practice, particularly on days one and two," said Bergeron, an assistant professor of clinical therapy at the Medical College of Georgia.

"The primary factors for driving body temperature during practice and clinical risk related to overheating are the environment and the intensity/duration of workouts and the uniform."

High school players in particular may not be in the shape that coaches believe they are at the start of practice, the panel said.

"High school kids are going to be less fit, and not only are they not accustomed to the physical exertion that workouts require, they're not really acclimatized to the heat and working out in that environment," Bergeron said.

And it doesn't have to be beastly hot for the heat to be a problem, he added. Sensible precautions, especially getting plenty of fluids, remain imperative.

Copyright 2005 by United Press International.

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