Sweat and sodium losses in NCAA football players: a precursor to heat cramps?


December 2005


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This observational study was designed to determine whether football players with a history of heat cramps have elevated fluid and sodium lossesduring training. During a "two-a-day" training camp, five Division I collegiate football players (20.2 +/- 1.6 y, 113 +/- 20 kg) with history of heat cramps (C) were matched (weight, age, race and position) with a cohort of teammates (19.6 +/- 0.6 y, 110 +/- 20 kg) who had never cramped (NC). Change in body weight (adjusted by fluid intake) determined gross sweat loss. Sweat samples (forearm patch) were analyzed for sodium and potassium concentrations. Ad libitum fluid intake was measured by recording pre- and post-practice bottle weights. Average sweat sodium loss for a 2.5-h practice was projected at 5.1 +/- 2.3 g (C) vs. 2.2 +/- 1.7 g (NC). When averaged across two practices within the day, fluid intake was similar between groups (C: 2.6 +/- 0.8 L vs. NC: 2.8 +/- 0.7 L), as was gross sweat loss (C: 4.0 +/- 1.1 L vs. NC: 3.5 +/- 1.6 L). There was wide variability in the fluid deficit incurred for both C and NC (1.3 +/- 0.9 vs. 0.7 +/- 1.2%) due to fluid intake. Sweat potassium was similar between groups, but sweat sodiumwas two times higher in C versus NC (54.6 +/- 16.2 vs. 25.3 +/- 10.0 mmol/L). These data indicate that sweat sodium losses were comparatively larger in cramp-prone football players than in NC. Although both groups consumed sodium-containing fluids (on-field) and food (off-field), both appeared to experience an acute sodium deficit at the end of practices based on sweat sodium losses. Large acute sodium and fluid losses (insweat) may be characteristic of football players with a history of heat cramping.


Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 15(6):641-652.

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