February 12, 2013
By Dan McCarthy//National Team High Performance Consultant
The organizations condemning the use of sports-supplements by children include the National Institute of Health and the American Academy of Pediatrics. According to the National Institute of Health, there is no data on the safety of sports-supplements used by children, their effectiveness, or the long-term side effects on children1. The promise of increased stamina, bigger muscles and quicker recovery time is probably not available in a sports-supplement bottle, nor should it be something parents or coaches feed, inject or smear on their children.
The sports-supplement industry is a nearly $3 billion a year business, which has virtually no oversight by the FDA regarding the safety, accuracy or effectiveness of their products2. Sports-supplements are created, blended and manufactured for adult consumers, and have never been intended for children. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics there is no research regarding the effectiveness of sports supplements on children, but the side effects of large doses of popular sport-supplement ingredients include decreased height, acne and baldness3. A recent study by the University of Miami on energy drinks, which are often marketed as sports-supplements, included heart palpitations, strokes and sudden death as legitimate risks for children using these products4.
The overwhelming evidence regarding the dangers of children using sports-supplements prompted Frank Busch, USA Swimming National Team Director, to issue the following statement:
“There is no place in the sport of swimming, for our children, to be using sports-supplements which are clearly intended for adults. They aren’t made for kids, they may not be safe in the first place and the potential for great harm is present.”
Any parent who is considering a sport-supplement for their child should consider the fact that there is not one reputable doctor or registered dietician that would recommend such a course of action. The natural growth and development of children is going to allow them to improve constantly throughout their young lives. There is no short-term goal worth the unknown ramifications of giving sports-supplements to a child.
1 U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.
(2012 , September). Children and Dietary Supplements. Retrieved
February 5, 2013, from NCCAM Clinical Digest: http://nccam.nih.gov/health/providers/digest/children
2 Riepenhoff, J. (2010, August 30). Supplements target teens, pose dangers and are virtually unregulated. Retrieved February 5, 2013, from www.dispatch.com: http://www.dispatch.com/content/stories/local/2010/08/29/day2-supplements-target-teens-pose-dangers-and-are-virtually-unregulated.html
3American Academy of Pediatrics. (2013, January 28). Healthy Living: Sports Supplements. Retrieved February 6, 2013, from www.healthychildren.org: http://www.healthychildren.org/English/healthy-living/sports/pages/Sports-Supplements.aspx?nfstatus=401&nftoken=00000000-0000-0000-0000-000000000000&nfstatusdescription=ERROR%3a+No+local+token&nfstatus=401&nftoken=00000000-0000-0000-0000-000000000000&nfst
4 Alvarez, D. M. (2012, October 22). Why energy drinks are harming your kids. Retrieved February 5, 2013, from www.foxnews.com: http://www.foxnews.com/health/2012/10/22/energy-drinks-harming-kids/