The “Don’t Ask” Question of School Sports–Are You Using Performance-Enhancing Substances?
by Stephen Tang, MD
As the days of summer become shorter and the prospects of a new academic year approach, we are faced with the promise and excitement of things to come. Many adolescent athletes have already started their pre-season preparation and are already knee deep in sprints and calisthenics. It is well known that success in sports involves hard work, commitment and training. For some athletes, obtaining an “edge” over the competition can potentially open doors to the use of performance-enhance substances (PES) such as anabolic steroids, creatine, and dietary supplements.
The adolescent phase of development is a special time in all of our lives and can be very memorable and interesting for teenagers and parents alike. The adolescent is often preoccupied with defining him/herself, gaining independence, and finding peer groups with which to identify. This places him/her uniquely vulnerable to the lure of PES.
The use of these substances has grown significantly among athletes with the promise of improved performance and among non-athletes with the promise of improved physical appearance. The prevalence of PES is difficult to estimate but in a 1997 survey of collegiate athletes, 29% of football players admitted to using a form of PES, 21% of men’s track, and 16% of women’s track. Some reports have estimated that 8.2% of high school athletes use creatine, with up to one third admitting to daily use. In another study, 11% of high school athletes admitted to using some form of androgenic or anabolic steroid. Interestingly, in another study, fewer than 20% of school-age children reported being counseled about the dangers of steroid use or the use of other PES.
So, it is incumbent on all of us to take this to heart and open the lines of communication with our adolescents. It is imperative for all adolescents to be asked the question…are you or any of your teammates using any supplements or performance enhancing substances?
For a nice summary on PES and current medical research as well as, potential medical risks, please refer to the following guidelines published by the American Academy of Pediatrics, Section on Sports Medicine and Fitness:
For more in-depth reading on the AAP policy regarding the use of performance-enhancing substances:
AAP-Use of Performance Enhancing Substances
Wishing you and your family a healthy and naturally-enhanced school year.
Steve Tang, MD, FAAP
The contents of this web site are provided as an informational tool. This is not intended to replace medical advice or care administered by a healthcare professional. Common sense should always be used when referencing this site. If, at any time, you feel your child is experiencing a medical emergency, call 911 immediately.