Eric Reid is a force on the field. As a rookie last season, tthe 22-year-old free safety earned Pro Bowl honors after recording four interceptions and 77 tackles.

Now Reid is tackling something different with Gatorade's "Beat The Heat" program, which teaches young athletes, parents and coaches the importance of hydrating while exercising. Now in its 10th year, the program has partnerships with the NFL, NBA, MLS and MLB.

"The main mission is to educate athletes on the importance of rehydration, especially during the summer," Reid said. "Now, that may not be the biggest issue in the mildly tempered (areas), but in Louisiana, where I'm from, it's a huge priority."

Reid had a run-in with dehydration in middle school, and now, as a professional athlete, knows exactly how to avoid it.

"Just from a rule of thumb that I've learned over the years, if you're thirsty, it's probably too late," Reid said. "If your body has to tell you that you need to hydrate, it's too late. You need to be proactive, not reactive."

Hydration is extremely important in all forms of athletics, especially during the summer. Illnesses due to heat include heat cramps, muscle spasms and heat exhaustion, which can cause lightheadedness and low blood pressure. Heat strokes can result in convulsion and death. All of these can be avoided by simply hydrating.

But research conducted by the Gatorade Sports Science Institute found that as many as 70 percent of high school football players practice without proper hydration. The "Beat The Heat" program, with the help of professional sports leagues, is trying to decrease that number.

"Athletes often don't understand the amount of fluid they lose from sweating and how important it is to replace those lost fluids during workouts, practices and games," said Asker Jeukendrup, Gatorade Sports Science Institute's global senior director. "The Beat the Heat program gives us and these great partner organizations an opportunity to educate athletes, parents and coaches about the importance of proper hydration and safety measures while practicing and competing in the heat."

Just drinking water is a start, but it is important to replenish the electrolytes that leave an athletes body. Drinks, like Gatorade, that contain electrolytes help replenish the body of sodium. Drinks that contain sodium help maintain the desire to rehydrate.

"Athletes and coaches on all levels need to pay close attention to the warning signs of heat-related illnesses because safety should not be risked in the name of competition," Roberta Anding, sports dietitian for the Houston Texans, said. "Drinks that contain electrolytes to help retain and regulate fluids are very important."

A health safety kit, which contains tips on how to properly get hydrated, lists the dangers of an athlete that is not properly hydrated, and ways to tell if you are properly hydrated, is available at Gatorade.com.

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