Drink Up! Stay Healthy. by Brian Eklund

Goaltending is a unique and unusual position in the game of hockey. Not only do we stand by ourselves, and are the last line of defense, but we also wear a lot of heavy padding. These protective layers of Kevlar, plastics, foams, and nylons protect us from vulcanized rubber being shot at us in excess of 90 MPH. With all of its great protective elements, there is also a large pitfall that comes with it . . . . heat retention. Due to large amounts of body heat being trapped under this equipment, goaltenders are susceptible to excessive water loss more than any other position in the game of hockey; which can possibly lead to dehydration, and heat stroke.

It is hard to believe that we could be talking about dehydration with a winter sport that is played in an air conditioned building on ice, but it is a very real problem. USA hockey acknowledges that fluid loss is a real problem in our sport and has established guidelines to proper hydration. The problem is that if you were to look at many of the guidelines you would notice that they talk almost exclusively about players, and ignore goaltenders. We are a different position in this game due to the fact that we never leave the ice. We are the only “players” that are actually active the entire game. On top of this, we also wear the heaviest gear. You put these two things together and you have a real problem.

It’s really cool to sweat...literally.

Sweating is the body’s way of cooling itself down; because when sweat evaporates from the skin, body heat is reduced. Since goaltenders wear more equipment than other “players”, our body temperature rises higher than most other positions in hockey, thus we sweat more. The question now is how do we conquer this problem? There really isn’t one answer though; every goaltender is different. Every one will have differing amounts of water loss during the course of a game. The one constant though is that proper hydration for a game, or practice does not start when you hit the ice; it starts at home. The USOC recommends that hockey players should consume a balanced diet and drink adequate fluids during the 24-hour period before exercise, and drink about 500 ml (about 16 ounces) of fluid about two hours before exercise. Lastly, before leaving for the arena you should also weigh yourself and write it down (you will understand why later).

Game time…

Upon reaching the rink, the drinking should continue in small amounts, right up until you hit the ice. This allows the body to slowly keep absorbing the water, rather than dumping a ton into your stomach at once. When you over drink you get a bloated, heavy feeling in your stomach that could upset your stomach; you are better to take it slow and drink in small increments. Now game time is approaching, and it’s time to play. When I played I would drink at every stoppage in play. I would drink a small amount of water every time; just as a habit. It is better to drink before you get thirsty, because the sensation of being thirsty is actually the body’s way of alerting you to being slightly dehydrated. If you can drink before this happens, you will be able to prevent anything serious from happening later on in the game.

Now get that weight back on…

After the game has been completed you should always weigh yourself again; remember I told you to weigh yourself before leaving for the game? Here we find out how much fluid the body has lost over the course of the game. If you are lighter than when you started, then you are going to have to drink plenty of fluids in order to make up for the loss in body mass. A good rule of thumb is to drink about 16 fl oz for every 1 pound lost. If you are able to get that water loss back into your body before the next day you are ahead of the curve, and should be good to go for another day of exercise. When it gets hard is when you can not get that water loss back into you; whether it is from being sick, or for other reasons.

I myself had a very tough time with dehydration; which is why I felt that I should talk to you about this. I battled with this from the first game in college, through my last pro game. It is nothing to laugh about. Dehydration is a very serious problem; something I have been hospitalized from, and a few years back a football player from the Minnesota Vikings, Kory Stringer, died from dehydration. In today’s game parents, players, coaches, and even equipment manufacturers are taking notice of this issue and are making changes in the right direction. Yes, even specialized equipment is being made by companies like, Under Armour and Farrell Sports (farrellsports.com), with advanced technology that takes heat dispersion into consideration in hopes to alleviate the problem. Hopefully in the future we will be able to play our game without worrying about serious dehydration, but like I said in the beginning, our game is fast paced and unlike any other game out there. So drink up! And stay healthy.

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 Drink Up! Stay Healthy. by Brian Eklund
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