Incomplete rehydration and a sodium deficit can prompt lower heat tolerance, greater cardiovascular and thermal strain, and reduced performance, as well as an increased risk of muscle cramping during the next game," Bergeron says.There's still a need for governing bodies of youth sports to address this issue and provide more specific, evidence-based guidelines for minimum rest periods between same-day competitive events for youth sports tournaments, he says.8 Prehydration for Performance Given the importance of hydration for optimal athletic performance, being properly hydrated before practices and competitions also is essential.Prehydration often is a problem for young athletes, due to their potential inability to perceive thirst and rehydrate appropriately.In 2012, a researcher studying hydration in young athletes reported that 50% to 75% of child and adolescent athletes already are dehydrated before beginning sports practice and competition, thereby increasing the risk of further dehydration and its side effects during sport activity.9 Attention to prehydration especially is important when young athletes are participating in sports that, due to their competition or training requirements, may hasten dehydration.The AAP Policy Statement cites the example of a healthy 12-year-old athlete who's fit, well hydrated, and acclimated to hot weather, and who safely can play soccer on a 95-degree day.
Bergeron, Ph D, FACSM, executive director of the Sanford Sports Science Institute and the National Youth Sports Health and Safety Institute, and a senior scientist at Sanford Children's Health Research Center.The training intensity and competitiveness associated with youth sports has increased substantially over the last several years.Many children and adolescents competing in sports now have weekend-long tournaments and twice-a-day practices.In children, the negative effects of fluid loss begin to occur at a 1% decrease in body weight.5 The negative effect on athletic performance in child athletes isn't well researched, and the adverse effects likely are due to decreases in cardiovascular system functioning, thermoregulation, and central fatigue, says Heather Mangieri, RDN, CSSD, a sports dietitian in Pittsburgh and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (the Academy)."Scientific research regarding fluid turnover or specific fluid needs for active children is limited.With the focus on improving sport-specific skills, cardiovascular endurance, and muscle strength to optimize athletic performance, the role of proper hydration is often overlooked.Recent incidents of severe heat exertion in high school football players have increased awareness of the need to pay attention to hydration and body temperature in hot, humid weather conditions.Internationally recognized for his research and leadership in exercise-heat stress and youth athletic health, Bergeron was one of the lead authors of the AAP Policy Statement and has provided individualized and sport-specific training and nutrition/hydration guidance for many young athletes and youth athletic organizations.In the first study of repeated-bout strenuous exercise in healthy competitive youth soccer athletes, Bergeron and colleagues found that one hour of complete rest, cool down, and rehydration following 80 minutes of strenuous exercise equivalent to a soccer game generally was effective in eliminating residual strain and dehydration during a second exercise session.Water for rehydrating, in conjunction with a balanced diet that includes sodium, allows child athletes to function optimally without added sports drinks, White says, adding that he recommends the National Food Service Management Institute's Nutrition Fact Sheet "Fueling the School-Aged Athlete—Sports Drinks" as a good resource on sports drink use. "More than 60 minutes of sports activity may require a sports drink containing 6% to 8% carbohydrates," White says."Hydration is dependent on how long the young athlete is involved in strenuous activity; endurance sports like swimming and soccer will require more hydration," he adds.