Dehydration and Concussions

There is no doubt that during a football game, from the youngest players, to the NFL, players get sweaty. Their hydration level will be impacted as a result of playing. That is why, when we watch a professional game, we see players drinking some kind of fluid on the sideline, during time outs, and any other chance they get.

Is it enough?

Are players getting enough fluids?

If they are not, and their hydration level drops, what can happen?

Well, muscle cramps, performance drops, and something far more technical.

Dehydration can impact brain volume. What they hell does that mean?

Well, it can cause a reduction of cerebrospinal fluid.

What the hell is cerebrospinal fluid?

Inside your skull, my skull, and even Tom Brady’s skull is your brain, and among other things, cerebrospinal fluid. The human brain cavity is a fixed size, your skull doesn’t change throughout your adult life. In humans still growing it does, but once fully grown it is a fixed size.

So, if your head is fully hydrated, your brain doesn’t have a lot of room to slosh around. If you are dehydrated, meaning your cerebrospinal fluid is reduced, your brain has room to slosh around.

Among other things, when you are in a collision, or hit your head, this fluid can slow down the impact your brain will experience with your skull. This reduces the incidence of concussion, or other forms of traumatic brain injury.

What this means, at least for football as we attempt to limit concussions, is that we have to think beyond the helmet.

We certainly want the best helmet design possible. But we also need to look for every possible way to limit these injuries. As part of this ongoing concussion protocol evolution we need to push the NFL to think past treating an injury or some silver bullet solution with a helmet that will fix everything. The human body has its own protection measures, and we should work towards using those as best as we can. In this case monitoring, and ensuring maintenance of appropriate hydration level will need to be part of that overall solution.

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