How to keep your athlete substance free
Updated: February 25, 2013 11:40AM
Being involved in athletics provides a host of benefits for students.
They are positively occupied, motivated and work off excess energy. They also learn life lessons both on and off the field.
However, along with these benefits come stressors, as trying out for a team, securing and maintaining a spot can present challenges to kids’ ability, management skills, determination and time. That’s why parents must stay involved with student athletes to help forge a path to healthy decisions.
Some of this guidance is needed when considering the use of supplements and drugs.
Parents are encouraged to learn about performance enhancing drugs and supplements that are widely, and often legally available. Educate your child about healthy ways to build muscle. Weight training in the off-season, cross-training with other sports, and other exercise, such as yoga will help them stay flexible and strong.
However there are some common performance-enhancing drugs and supplements parents should know about. They include:
Creatine: A naturally occurring compound in the body that’s sold over-the-counter. It enhances workout recovery and increases muscle mass and strength. Side effects include weight gain, nausea, muscle cramps and kidney damage.
Anabolic steroids: Synthetic versions of the hormone testosterone, used to build muscle and increase strength. Use can cause heart and liver damage, stop bone growth and result in a permanently short stature.
Steroid precursors. These include androstenedione (”andro”) and dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) which the body converts into anabolic steroids. Most are illegal without a prescription. DHEA is still available in over-the-counter preparations. Side effects are similar to those for steroids.
Parent and coaches can look out for certain signs that a child is using a performance enhancing drug:
• behavioral, emotional, or psychological changes-e.g.”’ roid rage”
• muscle growth, rapid weight gain and development of the upper body
• increased acne and facial bloating
• needle marks on the buttocks or thighs
• enlarged breast in boys and smaller breasts in girls
Check ingredients of supplements or shakes. Watch for paraphernalia like vials, plastic bags and hypodermic needles.
Talk honestly with your child and let them know your expectations.
Another concern is the increased use/abuse of prescription pain killers. Athletes encounter injuries. Often they are using pain pills longer than needed, creating addiction. Unfortunately many athletes are turning to street drugs like heroin (a cheap form of the opiate they’ve become addicted to) to feed their addiction. If your child becomes injured, discuss with their doctor alternatives to opiates, or choose the lowest pill strength for the shortest duration to manage the pain.
Make sure the school’s athletic department actively discourages use of performance enhancing drugs and encourages healthy practices. And continually reassure your teen of your love and support, regardless of their competitive performance.
Barbara Barrett, a registered nurse, is a health educator with the Robert Crown Center for Health Educator.