August 08, 2010
NFL practices this time of year are designed for maximum sweat production. Coaches are trying to build up stamina and endurance. Players push themselves to the limit, in pursuit of jobs and starting spots. It's also really, really hot.
And starting on Aug. 11, the beginning of the Islamic month of Ramadan, Minnesota Vikings safety Husain Abdullah(notes) will be going through these practices without the benefit of water. Or food. Or any other kind of hydration.
During Ramadan, observing Muslims like Abdullah will fast for 30 days; eating or drinking nothing while the sun is out. Food and drink are permitted after dark and before sunrise, but during the day, there's nada -- not a tiny little sip of water, or the smallest release of Powerade's mystic mountain blueberry. From the AP:
Even while sprinting in the heat and humidity during drills, sometimes in full pads, Abdullah is adamant about his faith. He will not allow himself so much as a cup of water until the sun sets and before it rises.
“I’m putting nothing before God, nothing before my religion,” Abdullah said. “This is something I choose to do, not something I have to do. So I’m always going to fast.”
Abdullah's worked with the team's nutritionist on a way to keep himself healthy through Ramadan with a couple of big meals when it's dark, and a protein shake in the middle of the night. Of course, they know better than I do, but I think about these intense workouts in 90-degree heat, and as soon as I even imagine doing it without water, my kidneys start to shut down.
"Last year it occurred in early September, and we saw a dip in his performance," coach Brad Childress said. "We said, 'What's wrong with Husain Abdullah? It doesn't seem like he has enough spunk.
"I think we have our arms around it now and know when he is going to wake up and when he is going to eat and what we can pack on him before the sun comes up."
I'm in awe of his commitment, and I'm glad he is doing what feels right. That said, I ask him to please, please be as careful as he goes through this. We've seen way too many times that heat-related illnesses are real, extreme and unforgiving dangers.
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