PERRYSBURG, Ohio — As an investigation starts regarding a Perrysburg wrestler seen on video wearing sauna pants to cut weight, some people are asking why the sauna suits and other devices for weight reduction are prohibited by the Ohio High School Athletic Association. 

Many adults recalling their high school years have responded that they remember wrestlers at the time using sauna suits, plastic wraps, layers of sweatsuits and even garbage bags to reach a goal weight for competition. The practice of doing this, however, is not allowed according to the 2019-2020 OHSAA handbook. 

"The OHSAA does not permit any practice that endangers the health and safety of the participants," the guidelines say. "Crash dieting, the use of diuretic, emetics and other drugs for weight reduction, the use of a sweat box, any type rubber, vinyl, or plastic sweatsuit or bag, hot showers, whirlpools or similar artificial heat devices for weight reduction is prohibited."

OHSAA RULES ON WRESTLING, WEIGHT

A "sauna suit" is a garment usually made from waterproof fabric that's designed to make the person who wears it sweat profusely, which would help a person lose water weight.  

Wrestlers taking extreme measures to lose weight - often called "cutting weight" is nothing new, even though rules banning the practice have been in place for decades.

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In 1977, the National Federation of State High School Associations implemented its rule that prohibits rubber, vinyl, and plastic-type suits. And in 1997, three tragic events in the world of college wrestling drew even more scrutiny. 

In the college incidents:

  • A University of Wisconsin-La Crosse senior wrestler died of heat stroke after he rode a stationary bike in a rubber suit 
  • A University of Michigan wrestler died of kidney failure and heart malfunction after wearing a rubber suit and working out in a heated room, and 
  • A freshman wrestler at Campbell University in North Carolina died during a workout to lose weight in his college gyms.

The NCAA changed its rules in 1998 to ban the use of rubber sweatsuits following the men's deaths, which occurred in a span of 33 days.  

Studies have shown that rapid weight loss through excessive dehydration can severely alter bodily functions, which could lead to kidney failure, heatstroke and heart attack.