A 17-year-old Georgia boy has died after a brain injury brought on by drinking too much water.
On August 5th, Zyrees Oliver was suffering from cramps due to dehydration after football practice. He reportedly drank two gallons of water and two gallons of Gatorade in a short time after practice, and later collapsed at his home.
He was airlifted to a hospital with the diagnosis of over-hydration, causing swelling of the brain. The massive pressure forced his brain to shut down. His family chose to take him off life support Monday.
A crisis team is said to be at Oliver's Douglas County High School to help friends and staff cope with his death. Principal Dr. Tim Scott said, "Zyrees was part of the Tiger Family since the end of his sophomore year but during that short time he touched many lives. ...The death of any young person is a loss that, in one way or another, affects each of us. We have lost one of our children but we will not forget his academic, athletic and overall impact and achievement he had on and while at our school."
WSB-TV reports that not only was Oliver looking to play college football, he had a 3.8 GPA. His aunt said "To see him go at 17, [he] couldn't have a family, couldn't do anything. [He was] ready to go to college. It's just very hurtful."
Hyponatremia, meaning "insufficient salt in the blood", is the technical name for water intoxication. It causes the brain to swell, which in extreme cases can lead to death.
Scientific American says it happens when the kidneys can't process water fast enough, causing the blood to become "waterlogged" which in turn causes the body's cells to swell, a problem that hits the brain particularly hard.
Athletes, in particular, are at a higher risk due to swinging between fluid loss due to exercise and fluid gain due to drinking water and sports drinks.
The Mayo Clinic points out the advice of drinking eight, eight ounce glasses of water daily is not supported by hard evidence. Everyone's needs are different, but those needs do go up depending on activity level and how much a person sweats.
To avoid tragic cases such as Oliver's, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends sports teams increase their training intensity gradually so players can adapt to the exercise, heat and fluid loss.