Mayfield head athletic trainer Heather Fisher made more than six trips to the turf during the third quarter of the Wildcats' 35-14 win against Nordonia
It’s Wednesday. Are you properly hydrated for high school football this weekend?
For many Northeast Ohio teams, last week’s opening night served as a painful reminder that if they are not preparing early in the week to combat dehydration and cramping during Friday and Saturday games, they might be fighting a losing battle by the time the whistle blows. It will be critical for Week 2 with highs in the mid- to upper-80s Friday and Saturday.
Mayfield head athletic trainer Heather Fisher made more than six trips to the turf during the third quarter of the Wildcats’ 35-14 win against Nordonia on Friday to tend to players felled by leg cramps due to dehydration. The quarter took more than an hour to play because officials had to stop the clock for numerous cramping issues.
Fisher said although players have endured weeks of conditioning and scrimmages, stepping on the field for Week 1 is typically their first time playing in any type of extended game situation. By halftime, many players just don’t have enough fuel to get them through, she said.
“If you don’t show up at the stadium on Friday already in a balanced state, you’re definitely setting yourself up,” Fisher said.
The scene was repeated at stadiums across the area as players were seemingly unprepared for the rigors of opening night.
As Warrensville Heights and John Marshall entered their seventh overtime on Friday, Tigers coach Desean Washington noted many of Marshall’s players were succumbing to cramps both on the field and on the sidelines.
During Benedictine’s 35-23 win at Toledo Central Catholic on Saturday, the Bengals were without the services of standout receiver Justin Layne and defensive back Warren Saba for most of the second half. Both players said after the game that cramping was the major issue.
Toledo Central Catholic scored at least one of its second-half touchdowns on a play that as many as four Bengals starting defenders were on the sidelines.
“We have to do a better job of taking care of ourselves,” Benedictine coach Joe Schaefer said.
The weekend weather also played a part in the cramping effect. The nighttime temperature dipped into the upper 60s across the area, with a relative humidity of better than 70 percent. Fisher says cool, humid weather can be deceiving.
“They think that if it’s not hot, they don’t have to hydrate,” she said. “It’s a lot of the little things. Most of these guys are very good about taking care of themselves. I think this is showing tonight that they need to step it up a little more.”
By the fourth quarter, Fisher had made six trips to the field to tend to fallen players. Most of them were rolled over in pain, clutching calves or quads. More than twice as many players sought attention on the sideline, where stretching and topical rubs provided a temporary modicum of relief.
Tried and true methods include serving players a mixture of Gatorade and water, or even pickle juice to help increase salt levels. But that can sometimes upset a player’s stomach. And in most cases, the dehydration is so far gone that the player just has to gut it out, Fisher said.
“When it gets to this point, there is only so much we can do here on the sideline between the stretching and the topical stuff we use,” she said. “If they’re getting to this point, it’s almost too late. So we’ve got to do as much damage control as we can to get them through.”
Fisher recommends players with games on Fridays start hydrating by Wednesday. That includes as many as three, 22-ounce bottles of water per day, along with stretching and eating a balanced diet with the right amount of proteins and carbohydrates.
“It’s about doing the extra stretching and taking care of yourself at night,” she said. “Potassium intake and salt intake is important. Sometimes too much salt will cause cramping and too little salt will cause cramping as well.”