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Georgia high school athlete dies from apparent over-hydration

Experts warn of dangers as school, football practices begin

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A 17-year old high school student in Georgia died Monday morning after drinking too many liquids during football practice.

Zyrees Oliver's family took him off life support Monday, after they said he had no brain activity.

Oliver's aunt told reporters that the teen drank two gallons of water and then two more gallons of Gatorade before collapsing at home following a practice. Doctors said that is called "over-hydration." And local health officials want families to be aware of it.

School is set to begin in just a matter of days, but football practice is off to a running start. With that, come safety suggestions from school officials: Drink plenty of water and stay hydrated out on the field.

But questions and confusion linger after Oliver died after drinking too much during practice near Atlanta. An autopsy for Oliver has been scheduled.

"We're talking about a 3.8 GPA student," said Tammy Chavis, Oliver's aunt. "Healthy, he was aiming to go to college to play football. He had his life all (breaks down crying)."

Doctors said Oliver fell victim to massive brain swelling caused by over-hydration. Dr. Shalaka Ghate said that happens more often than people think.

"The actual solutes in the blood – the sodium, the potassium, the normal electrolytes that we have – they actually get diluted from this 'too much water,'" Ghate said.

Ghate said from there, cells become confused inside of the body, and pressure begins to build in the brain, which can lead to it shutting down.

"You're kind of taught to just push fluids, push fluids, push fluids, and you really have to be careful," Ghate said.

Bryan Anderson with the Jacksonville Orthopedic Institute said preventing dehydration in the first place is key. He recommends athletes drink water throughout the day -- rather than too much at once.

"Not just scheduled water breaks," Anderson said. "Also, you want to have scheduled water breaks in time off. So, for every 15 or 20 minutes, especially in the way we're in the heat right now ... it could be even as little as 10 to 15 minutes."

Anderson also said he recommends that athletes drink 7 to 10 ounces of fluid every 20 minutes or half hour during practices or games. That also depends on their weight, so it's good to talk to a doctor first.

About the Author:

Ashley Harding joined the Channel 4 news team in March 2013 and reports every weekday for The Morning Show.