A number of wrestling deaths have been reported at the collegiate level in recent years. These deaths now prompt new attention to the methods wrestlers are using to make weight.
With competition in weight categories, many high school and college wrestlers try to lose enough weight to qualify for lower weight categories. The main method that has been utilized is dehydration (water loss), which is a potential health-hazard.
In question is whether hydration has any effect in muscular strengthening. There are some thoughts that muscle endurance is reduced when a loss in body weight is related to water loss. Other weight loss methods include food restriction, fasting, lowering fluid intake on a daily basis, or vomiting before the competition to make weight.
Another method that has been utilized is the regular use of a rubber sweat suit. This has been criticized as being illegal and frowned upon by medical groups. One of the most recent deaths was a collegiate wrestler who died of kidney failure and heart malfuntion. He was wearing a rubber suit while riding a stationary bike to achieve greater loss of weight.
When wrestlers restrict their daily diet, they do not meet the recommended daily allowance of nutrients. In turn, they lack energy for performance. The synthetic muscle building supplements used by many athelets will be investigated by the U.S. Food and Drug Adminstration.
The rapid weight loss can also have a psychologial effect during a longer endurance match.
Wrestlers should realize that dehydration methods have been found to be illegal by sport governing bodies. The use of diuretics, laxatives, steam and rubber sweat suits are illegal at the high school level and the wrestler will be disqualified. The International Olympic Committee and the NCAA also found using any of these methods to be illegal.
Coaches, wrestlers and parents should monitor changes during the season and make it a point that the wrestlers eat a balanced diet containing protein, carbohydrates, fat, as well as proper vitamins and minerals.
Wrestle with your opponent, not your weight.
Dr. Robert Weiss lives in Westport and has a sports-podiatry practice in Darien. He is a former marathon runner and was a member of the Medical Advisory Committee of the 1984 and the 1988 Olympic Trials.