'Cutting' weight: A safe practice for youth wrestlers?

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'Cutting' weight: A safe practice for youth wrestlers?

Question

My sons are always trying to lose weight to compete in wrestling. Is this OK, if they're not overweight to begin with?

Rick
Texas

Answer

Youth wrestling puts kids at risk for extreme weight-loss practices. Wrestlers may try to "cut" weight in order to compete in a lower weight class, where they think they may have an advantage against a smaller opponent. But some weight-loss practices may be harmful to their health as well as their sport performance.

Each state has weight-loss guidelines for wrestlers. Before the season begins, wrestlers must undergo a medical evaluation to determine the lowest weight at which they can safely wrestle during the season.

Most short-term weight-loss methods involve reducing water weight by restricting fluid intake and using diuretics to increase urination. But wrestlers may also try more drastic measures for rapid weight loss, including:

  • Fasting
  • Using saunas or rubber or plastic workout suits to sweat off water weight
  • Vomiting
  • Laxatives

All of these methods can have serious health consequences for kids, such as:

  • Dehydration
  • Heat exhaustion or heat stroke
  • Low blood sugar
  • Fainting
  • Electrolyte imbalance
  • Calcium imbalance

Also, crash diets can impair the normal growth process and actually reduce muscle mass in kids. Athletes who want to lose a significant amount of weight should meet with a sports dietitian in the off season to develop a plan that promotes safe and healthy eating and weight goals.

Last Updated: 02/11/2005
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