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Updated 09 September 2014

Drinking too much water can be dangerous

There is serious danger faced by athletes if they drink too much water or too many sports drinks, according to a new study.

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The recent deaths of two U.S. high school football players highlights the fact that drinking way more fluid than your body needs is dangerous, according to recent studies.

The players died of exercise-associated hyponatremia, which occurs when athletes drink lots of fluids even when they're not thirsty.

Too much fluids cause cells to swell

Too much fluid intake causes cells to swell with water, resulting in muscle cramps, nausea, vomiting, seizures, loss of consciousness and even death.

A high school football player in Georgia reportedly drank 2 gallons of water and 2 gallons of sports drink during practice.

He later collapsed at home and died in hospital.

Another high school football player, this time from Mississippi, developed hyponatremia during a game and died after being taken to hospital, according to the study published recently in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

Read: Too much water could be dangerous

The researchers also noted that hyponatremia has been confirmed or suspected in more than a dozen runners' deaths in recent years.

Many coaches encourage athletes to drink before they get thirsty, but experts recommend that athletes drink only when thirsty, said study author Dr. James Winger, a sports medicine physician at Loyola University Medical Centre.

While drinking only when thirsty can cause mild dehydration, "the risks associated with dehydration are small," Winger said in a Loyola news release.

Read: Bottled water a rip-off: NCF

"No one has died on sports fields from dehydration, and the adverse effects of mild dehydration are questionable. But athletes, on rare occasions, have died from over-hydration," he noted.

A previous study co-authored by Winger found that almost half of recreational runners in the Chicago area may be drinking too much fluid during races.

Read More:

Are you drinking too much water?
Too much bottled water is bad for the teeth
6 popular water myths

Image: Man with a towel drinking water from Shutterstock

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