New research conducted at Loyola University’s Health System department has found that the death of up to 14 athletes was due to an over-exertion-type condition called ‘hyponatremia’, where there is a low-sodium concentration in the bloodstream. The condition, according to University Herald, occurs from drinking too much water or sports drinks.
Athletes are often mistakenly told to push their fluid consumption, ignoring their thirst and frequently attempting to drink until their urine is clear. However drinking in excess does not prevent fatigue, muscle cramps, or heat stroke; instead it overwhelms the kidneys and inhibits their ability to dispense surplus water causing sodium in the body to become diluted and your cells to ‘swell’ – which is life-threatening.
“Muscle cramps and heatstroke are not related to dehydration,” says James Winger, a sports medicine physician at Loyola University Medical Center. “You get heat stroke because you’re producing too much heat.”
So how do we combat this hazard? It’s actually very simple, just make sure to only drink when you are actually thirsty. It’s really that straight forward, though apparently developing hyponatremia is an increasingly common issue among athletes. So much so, that a panel of experts have posted guidelines in the Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine for how to avoid this condition, saying:
“Using the innate thirst mechanism to guide fluid consumption is a strategy that should limit drinking in excess and developing hyponatremia while providing sufficient fluid to prevent excessive dehydration,”
As obvious as it may sound, many people wouldn’t consider water as a substance you have to take in moderation. Fortunately if you do happen to flood your kidneys with too much H20, the guidelines also note that exercise-associated hyponatremia can be treated with an administration of a 3 percent sodium solution, which is nearly three times higher than the average concentration in a saline solution.