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NBA Players Need to Manage Hydration Levels

ben-simmonsBy selecting LSU’s Ben Simmons with the No. 1 overall pick in the NBA draft, the Philadelphia 76ers may have acquired the superstar talent they need to get back in the mix as a highly competitive team from year to year. In order to bring the 76ers back to the Promised Land, however, he will need to stay well hydrated.

In his first NBA Summer League game, Simmons was forced to leave the game after battling cramps in both legs. The 6-foot-10 forward, who played 23 minutes in the game and scored 10 points.

“That’s the worst I’ve ever cramped, so I’m definitely going to stay on that,” he told reporters.

How much can becoming dehydrated affect a basketball player? A study by Asker Jeukendrup, PhD, and Michael Gleeson, PhD. indicated that performance can be affected when is dehydrated by as little as 2% body weight. Losses in excess of 5% body weight can reduce work output by as much as 30%.

Simmons’ cramping issue is far from the first in the NBA. In fact, LeBron James battled severe cramps during an NBA Finals game against the San Antonio Spurs in 2014. He received harsh criticism for having to exit the game.

“From the outside, ‘oh, it’s a cramp. Can’t play through a cramp?’” teammate Dwyane Wade said following the game. “If a player like LeBron James coming out of the ballgame, [up] two, then it’s serious. It’s nothing to be joked about.”

The effects of dehydration can reach beyond speed and power, there can be mental repercussions too. A University of Connecticut study found subjects performed worse in a number of cognitive tests that measured vigilance, concentration, reaction time, learning, memory, and reasoning when suffering from even mind dehydration.

“There are a number of different strategies that teams employ to make sure their athletes are staying hydrated,” former Sabres Strength and Conditioning Coach Doug McKenney said. “The most important factor, in my mind, is keeping track of hydration levels. How can you know how much you need to replenish if you aren’t even sure if you’re dehydrated or not?”

The CoachMePlus system allows athletes to report their hydration levels on a daily basis.

Simmons said he would miss the next game, but expected to be back in action soon. He was asked what he will take away from his summer league debut.  “I gotta drink more fluids,” he joked.

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