1ST LT. ANTHONY HEREDIA
Alabama Army National Guard
Team sports can be a great way for Soldiers to exercise and bond. However, when not done safely, they can also be a significant hazard that adversely impacts the effectiveness and readiness of an organization. Many injuries result from team activities due to a lack of conditioning, poor nutrition and, more times than not, a Soldier’s competitive drive to do more than he or she can safely do.
When I was stationed in Marion, Alabama, with the Bold Tiger Battalion ROTC, the cadets decided they wanted to play Ultimate Frisbee. They wrote their physical training plan and submitted it to the battalion commander, who approved it. The cadets were excited they would be able to participate in a sport for physical training as opposed to the standard push-ups and sit-ups in the grass.
The temperature was about 95 F when the teams were divided and the game began. Energy levels were high and the cadets were motivated. They were all running with a lot of intensity and truly working out. Among the group was a cadet — we’ll call him Cadet A — who was especially fond of drinking Coke. In fact, that was all he drank. As he ran up and down the field, his legs began to cramp. But this was a highly motivated Soldier, and he was not going to allow a cramp to prevent him from having fun with his buddies.
Though his cramp worsened, Cadet A kept playing. Suddenly, as he jumped to catch the Frisbee, his leg muscles locked up. Upon landing on the ground, Cadet A could not move his leg at all. Soon, his right quadricep began to twitch violently, forcing his leg to tighten and hyperextend.
We called the campus nurse to come to his aid, but she wasn’t too sure what to do other than to let the cramp work itself out. After about 15 minutes of pain, the cadet’s leg relaxed, but the damage was already done. Due to his leg being under so much stress for an extended period of time, his knee sustained permanent damage. As a result, Cadet A was unable to commission with his class due to the injury.
To this day, I still keep in touch with Cadet A. He tells me he has not had a soda since his accident. Fortunately, he was commissioned the following year and his knee is doing much better, although it still gives him occasional pain.
So how much water or fluids do we need to take in each day? A good rule of thumb is to take your body weight in pounds and divide it in half. That gives you the number of ounces of water per day that you need to drink. For example, if you weigh 180 pounds, you should drink at least 90 ounces of water per day. If you exercise, you should drink another 8-ounce glass of water for every 20 minutes you’re active. If you make it a point to stay properly hydrated, you can help yourself avoid becoming a heat casualty. That’s a lesson Cadet A learned the hard way.