Dehydration is serious business for young athletes and sweat sensitive clothes aim to change that. A day in the life of any high school athlete typically involves finding new ways to push his or her body to perform at its absolute best – and that can mean working up a serious sweat. Whether these players are under the Friday night lights or simply at an after school practice, sweating puts them at risk for dehydration and other heat-related illnesses any time they’re on the field.
The Risk of Heat Stroke
Exertional heat stroke is the third leading cause of death among high school athletes, often attributed to a lack of acclimation to heat, coupled with dehydration. Heat exhaustion occurs when the core body temperature is elevated to between 100.4 and 104 degrees, and is often accompanied by muscle cramps, fatigue, thirst, nausea, vomiting and headaches.
Fluids: Too Much or Not Enough?
Heat-related problems are most likely to occur during the first few weeks of the sporting season, especially in hotter climates. Most professionals recommend taking it easy at first and gradually increasing the amount of activity as time passes. Coaches are encouraged to require their players to drink plenty of fluids before any practice or game, even if they aren’t thirsty.
But, believe it or not, there is such a thing as too much water. While dehydration is rarely, if ever, fatal, consuming too many fluids during a sporting event can have serious consequences. Hyponatremia occurs when an athlete consumes so much fluid that his or her body can’t rid itself of the surplus simply by sweating or urinating. This causes water levels to rise in the blood stream and sodium levels to fall. Cells swell up like water balloons as they begin absorbing water from the blood to equalize sodium levels. If brain cells begin to swell, it can be lethal.
With this delicate balance between dehydration and hyponatremia, coaches are now faced with a new dilemma: how to know when to tell their players to hydrate.
New technology has been developed to help take some of the guesswork out of how much water their teams should be drinking. Paulien Routs has developed SOAK, a sweat-sensitive textile coating that changes color depending on the wearer’s hydration level. Each color provides a visual cue to the condition of the athlete’s internal health based on the composition of their sweat.
Sweat contains a variety of different acids and minerals, and the amounts present in an athlete’s sweat present valuable information about his or her physical condition.
The SOAK color spectrum ranges from shades of blue, meaning the wearer is well hydrated, through shades of green, to yellow and brown, signifying dehydration due to high amounts of acids in the wearers’ sweat. In essence, a players’ health can be monitored by what color his or her shirt happens to be at the moment.
By simply implementing this textile treatment in practice jerseys and uniforms, coaches will be able to monitor the health of their players and ensure that the team remains healthy and safe.