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Steer Clear of Sports Supplements

Steer Clear of Sports Supplements

Big-name sports stars aren't the only ones who use risky performance-boosting drugs or supplements. High school youths, especially athletes, often use supplements ranging from energy drinks, vitamins, herbs and minerals to illegal anabolic steroids.

Star athletes have suffered serious and even fatal harm from these drugs and supplements. The possible short- and long-term threats include stroke, heart attack and cancer. Yet many teens who’ve used steroids, ephedra and other substances aren't aware of the risks. Even worse, some do know the risks, and choose to ignore them.

Parents, coaches and teachers must learn the dangers so they can teach children to avoid these unsafe substances.

Popular supplements

Here is a rundown of several popular supplements and their safety:

  • Anabolic steroids. The claim is that these substances build muscle mass and strength. Fact: These substances are illegal and dangerous. They boost the risk for stroke, heart disease, liver damage, high cholesterol, high blood pressure. It can also cause testicular shrinkage and breast enlargement in men.

  • Androstenedione. The claim is that these substances build muscle mass and strength. Fact: "Andro," which is a banned substance, raises the risk for heart disease, cancer, liver damage and stroke. It can also cause testicular shrinkage and breast enlargement in men.

  • Chromium picolinate. The claim is that this substance builds muscle mass and reduces fat. Fact: Studies have shown this supplement leads to liver damage, kidney damage, and a condition called rhabdomyolysis. This is abreakdown of muscle tissue, which is very dangerous.

  • Creatine. The claim is that this substance builds muscle mass, and may cause weight gain. Its effect on the kidneys is unclear.

  • Ephedra. The claim is that this substance boosts energy and maintains body weight. Fact: Ephedra is dangerous, causing rapid or irregular heartbeats, high blood pressure, nerve damage, stroke, and memory loss. It has been taken off the market, but products with ephedra-like qualities are still promoted.

Red flags for anabolic steroid use:

  • Sudden bulking and muscling up

  • Violent mood swings

  • Very severe and widespread acne

  • Hair loss

  • Breast enlargement in boys

  • Facial hair in girls

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) strongly condemns the use of performance-enhancing substances. The AAP recommends a sensible strength and conditioning program along with a well-balanced diet with proper hydration for the best long-term improvements in performance.