A high school football player dies after reportedly consuming two gallons each of water and Gatorade


(Larry Crowe/AP)

Exercise-associated hyponatremia sounds like it should be fake. It’s a condition that occurs when people drink so much fluid after exercise that their cells swell with excess water, causing seizures, comas and even death. Unfortunately, this phenomenon is all too real — a Georgia high school football player died from a suspected case of it earlier this week. Per USA Today:

Relatives of 17-year-old Zyrees Oliver had him removed from life support early Monday in a hospital in Marietta. He had no brain activity. Oliver was declared dead a short time later. Relatives say the youth complained of cramping during football practice on Tuesday at Douglas County High School, west of Atlanta. Aunt Tammy Chavis says the teen drank two gallons of water and two more gallons of Gatorade. Oliver’s mother picked him up because he couldn’t drive, and he later collapsed at home and was taken to the hospital by helicopter. Relatives say doctors told them Oliver suffered massive swelling around the brain from over-hydration.

Oliver had been on life support for five days, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. “It’s incomprehensible,” Nina Oliver, the teenager’s aunt, told the Journal-Constitution. “We had a healthy, beautiful, vibrant young man.” The teen loved football and ran track. He also excelled at school, achieving a 3.8 grade average. Death from overhydration is rare but also preventable. You simply need to drink less. However, that is sometimes easier said than done with all the conflicting and often incorrect advice that exists about how much water you should consume after intense activity. Family practice physician James Winger of Loyola University Health System in Illinois studied fluid-intake awareness using marathon runners. Per a 2011 Washington Post article:

Winger’s study, published [in 2010] by the British Journal of Sports Medicine, measured mistaken beliefs about hydration among runners by surveying 197 Chicago-area racers in 2009. Most — 58 percent — knew to drink only when thirsty. … The rest of the runners in Winger’s survey were likely to follow the older guidelines, which called for drinking set amounts before, during and after a race or drinking all they could hold. The thinking behind that was that even slight dehydration would hurt performance and that by the time a runner felt thirsty, the negative effects of dehydration had already begun. … Another belief that Winter found among runners was that electrolyte-laden beverages, such as sports drinks, can prevent the condition by replacing sodium lost via sweating. In fact, Winger says in his study, overconsumption of sports drinks can lead to hyponatremia just as easily as drinking too much water can. … Based on his research, Winger says runners can avoid hyponatremia by paying little attention to advertisements for sports drinks, outdated if well-meaning hydration advice and their own beliefs. “I like the simplicity of the message ‘Drink when you’re thirsty,’ ” he says. “It’s not something you have to tell your body to do.”

The advice comes too late for Oliver, who had dreams of playing football in college. His family has plans to bury Oliver in New Jersey and has created a fundraising page on GoFundMe to help with the funeral costs.

From The Post:

Experts say more can be done to prevent heat-related deaths in football

Marissa Payne writes for The Early Lead, a fast-breaking sports blog, where she focuses on what she calls the “cultural anthropological” side of sports, aka “mostly the fun stuff.” She is also an avid WWE fan.
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Marissa Payne · August 13

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