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Volume 21 No. 43
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Giants dive into the science of sweat to keep players hydrated

Every New York player has worn sweat absorption patches at training camp.
Photo: Getty Images

It’s little secret NFL teams often turn to science to gain an edge for their players, from sleep monitoring and movement trackers to smoothie ingredients. The New York Giants, in tandem with their training camp sponsor, Quest Diagnostics, are now focusing on another one: collecting and testing players’ sweat to create hydration plans for each player.

Last month at the start of training camp, each Giants player wore sweat absorption patches that were then chemically analyzed in the following days. Three years ago, their players wore gloves provided by Gatorade’s scientific institute, and the sweat was literally squeezed into test tubes. That experiment tested how much the players sweat and not the composition of the secretion, said Ronnie Barnes, the Giants’ head athletic trainer. The Quest test analyzes what chemicals a player might be losing and prescribes the hydration necessary.

Barnes had an interesting confession to make: Players don’t like drinking Gatorade, a league sponsor, because they believe it is high in sugar and calories. Barnes, though, is high on Gatorade for hydrating in the heat, and said he hopes the Quest sweat test will prove to players that drinking water is not enough.

He thinks it’s already having an effect. Hyped rookie running back Saquon Barkley approached him to ask whether he should drink 10 Gatorades at night in his hotel room. Chuckling over what that would mean for Barkley’s bathroom visits, Barnes instead encouraged the No. 2 overall draft pick to drink four bottles.

Quest works with about 50 professional big-league sports teams for medical services, said Richard Schwabacher, the firm’s executive director, consumer technologies and digital solutions. He would not break down how many are in the NFL but said the Giants test is the first use of the sweat patches among those clubs.

Hydration has been a sensitive subject in the NFL ever since the 2001 death of Vikings offensive lineman Korey Stringer during a hot summer training camp. It’s unclear how many teams, if any, other than the Giants measure and test sweat. Clubs are notoriously tight-lipped about their practices, considering them trade secrets.

The sweat testing was voluntary at Giants camp, though Barnes said all 90 players agreed to it. The Giants, Barnes added, plan to make sweat testing an annual part of training camp.

Quest is the naming-rights sponsor of the Giants training camp venue, which is adjacent to MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J.