Proper Hydration and Cooling for Football Players and Cheerleaders

Football Player Hydration

If you want your sports teams and cheerleading squads to put on a peak performance at every game and practice, proper hydration and cooling is a must- especially in the summer months. Believe it or not, you can be dehydrated and not know it.

We rely on thirst to let us know when we should replenish our fluids, but you can be dehydrated without being thirsty. The danger in this is that your athletes will engage in vigorous exercise and lose fluids through sweating, without being adequately hydrated.

Football players are at the most risk for dehydration because of all the equipment they wear when they play and practice in hot weather. Also, football players are less likely to stop practicing or working out when they begin to feel early symptoms of dehydration because they don’t want to look weak on the field. This combined with the physical demands of their sport can raise body temperatures to dangerous levels and cause significant fluid loss.

Danger Signs

Dehydration can adversely affect athletic performance. It is up to coaches (and/or parents if children or teenage athletes are involved) to proactively take preventative measures and watch for signs of dehydration in their players and cheerleaders. Symptoms of dehydration may include:

  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Muscle cramps
  • Nausea
  • Profuse sweating
  • Thirst
  • Weakness

What to Do When Dehydration Occurs

If you notice any of these symptoms, move the athlete to a cooler location and lay him or her down with their feet slightly elevated. Remove any protective gear and/or loosen or remove clothing. Give him or her fluids such as water or Gatorade and spray (or sponge) him or her with cold water. Fanning him or her will also help.

Call 911 immediately if the athlete appears confused, loses consciousness, has a fever of 104º or higher or has a seizure. These are symptoms of heat stroke.
Tips to Prevent Dehydration

It is a good idea to encourage your teams to show up to practices and games hydrated. Strongly encourage members to drink at least 16oz of fluid first thing in the morning of a game or practice, then drink another 8 to 16oz of fluid before 15-20 minutes before a game or practice starts.

Make sure players and cheerleaders drink fluids during a game or practice to stay hydrated. Make drinking fluids during designated “water breaks” a mandatory practice, even if players insist they are not thirsty. It is a best practice to offer an unlimited supply of water for your athletes during games and practices.

Ensure that your team members are properly acclimatized to current temperatures in the environment where they will be playing or cheering. Be prepared to adjust your practices based on current heat conditions; extreme temperatures need to be taken into consideration to keep your teams at peak performance.

It is a good idea to foster an environment where athletes can speak up if they are feeling sick. Creating a culture that allows for this is smart; it will keep your team on the field and out of the hospital.


While it is a rare occurrence, over-hydration has received recent media attention and should also be taken into consideration. Drinking a gallon of water all at once as opposed to 16oz can deplete sodium levels and the body cannot keep up.

Over-hydration can cause the excess water to spread through the cells in the body. When this much water gets into the cells of the brain, the brain will swell. This can cause it to herniate and cause brain death. Signs of over-hydration include confusion, nausea, and swelling of hands, arms, and feet.

Make Staying Cool and Hydrated Easy for Your Players and Cheerleaders

Portable air conditioners and misting fans like the Sports Cool Portable Cooling System provide cool, hydrating comfort in sweltering temperatures.

Keep cold water at your players’ and cheerleaders’ fingertips by making a power drinking system like a Sports Cool Drink Station or the Power Tank with Cart a standard piece of equipment on the field. Keeping an adequate supply of electrolyte replenishing products such as Gatorade Thirst Quencher and Sqweencher Freezer Pops is another great way to combat dehydration.

Energy drinks with caffeine are not recommended; they increase the risk of heat exhaustion or heat stroke.  BSN Sports can help you provide solutions for football player hydration.


Scott Palmer

Scott Palmer is a Product Manager at BSN SPORTS. Scott has been working in the sporting apparel and equipment industry for over 24 years, serving all levels from Purchasing to Operations to General Management.

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