Cutting weight

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Many people have asked about cutting weight.  While I don't prescribe to this method without a doctor's supervision here are some articles about the subject.  In the long run a coach should not put himself on the line with this issue due to the liability that might arise should an athlete die.  Moving up and down 15 to 30 lbs. just to appease a coach that wants a winning season is not justification to cut weight.  When a coach tells a wrestler that if he does not "do this for the team", that the wrestler will lose his position on the team, letter, etc. or whatever, then parents have to look at the coach and say "enough is enough".

From peer pressure of his teammates, and coach, a wrestler will probably follow through without realizing the health impact it may have on his body, both short term, and long term.  There are better ways to cut weight then using diuretics, and extreme workouts which will put a strain on the heart of a wrestler, especially going both up and down drastically in one season.  So, I thought these articles might be informative.  Remember.........

"Cutting weight for a wrestler is a personal decision, not a coaches!"

For decades, the wrestling community has operated under the myth that to be a good wrestler, one must cut weight.

Bryan W. Smith, M.D., Ph.D., FAAP
Medical Consultant
Atlantic Coast Conference

Wrestling is a sport that dates back to the beginnings of sport. It is one of the few sports that give athletes of all sizes a venue to compete. It provides for individual as well as team competition. And if you have never been to a wrestling match, it is nothing like the version on television. For years wrestling was a male-only sport but now, women are participating in larger numbers each year.

Wrestlers pride themselves on mental and physical toughness. Participation has been shown to positively impact self-discipline and character. In spite of these attributes, the sport has been challenged on the issue of weight management. This has centered over weight cutting or rapid weight loss. For decades, the wrestling community has operated under the myth that to be a good wrestler, one must cut weight.




Weight cutting or making weight using rapid weight loss methods has been an accepted part of the sport of wrestling in spite of concerns from the American Medical Association as early as 1967 and the American College of Sports Medicine since 1976. Renewed scrutiny of weight loss practices in the sport of wrestling occurred in 1996 when the American College of Sports Medicine released an updated position stand on weight loss in wrestlers. Unfortunately, tragedy struck in late 1997 when three collegiate wrestlers died over a one month time frame while engaging in rapid weight loss behaviors to qualify for competition. A review of the three deaths by the Center for Disease Control concluded that the wrestlers were attempting to lose an average of 1-2 lbs/hr after having lost an average of 21 pounds over the previous 10-13 weeks. All three wrestlers had been wearing rubber suits and exercising in overheated conditions.


How common is weight cutting?

Studies in high school wrestlers prior to recent changes found that up to one third of wrestlers were cutting weight more than 10 times in a season at an average of 4-6 lbs. per time. At the 1991 NCAA wrestling tournament with a weigh-in 20 hours before competition, the average weight gain post weigh-in was 8 pounds or 5% of body weight.

Many negative physiological effects of weight cutting have been identified such as impaired thermoregulation, decreased work capacity, decreased renal blood flow, increased heart rate, reduced endurance capacity, altered hormonal status, and stunted growth and development. Weight cutting has been associated with cardiac arrhythmias, pulmonary emboli, pancreatitis and decreased immune function. Altered psychological states and impaired academic performance have been reported.

Why would athletes do this?

One, there is a belief in the sport that weight cutting gives one a competitive advantage by having a relative increase in strength and power since the wrestler competes in a lower weight class. Whether one improves performance is debatable. Research has not shown this to be true. Two, this is a traditional rite of the sport with weight loss techniques passed down from generation to generation. Sort of a "no pain, no gain" philosophy. Three, if a better wrestler on the team is in the same weight class. Sometimes, the coach needs to shuffle the lineup to create better chances to win against a particular team.

Prior to these deaths, most attempts to influence change regarding weight loss behaviors had come in the form of recommendations from both sports medicine groups as well as the NCAA Committee of Competitive Safeguards and Medical Aspects of Sports to discourage the use of techniques or devices that promote rapid weight loss. In 1991, the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association adopted radical changes setting a minimum wrestling weight criteria. Following the deaths, the NCAA Wrestling Committee with guidance from the NCAA Competitive Safeguards and Medical Aspects of Sports Committee adopted significant rule changes to address weight loss behaviors in the sport of wrestling keeping in mind that weight is the competitive equity variable in the sport.

Three guiding principles were established to provide a foundation for the formulation of these rule changes. 1) Any and all weight control practice that could potentially risk the health of the participant should be eliminated from wrestling. To do this effectively, the incentives to attempt these practices must be minimized. 2) The focus in the sport should be on competition not weight control. 3) Recommendations should be practical, effective, and enforceable.

These new changes included:


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