With students back in school and fall sports in high-gear, HSHS St. Elizabeth’s Hospital and HSHS Athletes Advantage Sports Medicine encourages parents to talk to their children about the dangers of performance-enhancing drugs, including steroids.
Anabolic steroids are synthetic substances related to testosterone, a male hormone that occurs naturally in the body. These performance-enhancing drugs are used to boost athletic performance, ward off fatigue, increase muscle mass and energy, and enhance physical appearance.
According to a Partnership for Drug Free Kids survey conducted in 2014, steroid use among teens has risen from five to seven percent. Additionally, use of synthetic Human Growth Hormone (HGH) has doubled from five to 11 percent.
“Young athletes understand that their high school sports years are important – a time when college or even professional recruiters are looking for the best players – and for some, unfortunately, the pressure to be the best can make steroids hard to resist,” notes Jamie Wagner, MEd, ATC, CSCS, Program Manager for HSHS Athletes Advantage Sports Medicine. “Additionally, for many athletes, the overwhelming pressure to perform at the highest-level, is not only a result of internal pressure, but can also extend from peers, parents and coaching staff.”
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, steroid abuse can cause irreversible damage to the body such as heart and liver damage, stunted bone development, fertility problems, potentially irreversible masculine traits in females, breast enlargement in males, extreme mood swings, acne and weight gain, and it is also possible for steroid abusers to become addicted — that is, to continue to use the steroid despite physical problems and negative effects on social relationships.
“With all of the pressures that exist in today’s society for student athletes to perform at the highest level, it is extremely important to talk to your child about the dangers of using steroids or any other illegal performance-enhancing drugs,” said Wagner. “It also is important to regularly talk to your child about the pressures they are experiencing. Having open discussions about everyday issues with your athlete demonstrates your concern for their well-being and not only their sports performance.”
Below are a few important tips to remember when discussing steroid use with your child.
Be yourself and invite conversation. Ask your children how their training is going. Ask if they are doing anything new to get an edge on the competition.
Start with questions about supplements. Ask if they are using supplements. If so, ask which ones and what benefits they are expecting to get from them.
Approach the subject of steroids tactfully. Explain that it is all about choices. Every single athlete at some point needs to decide whether to achieve his or her greatest potential naturally or to cheat by using steroids or similar substances.
Get involved. Attend games and practices. Be engaged in conversations with coaches and school personnel to ensure they are actively discouraging the use of performance-enhancing drugs. Reassure your teen of your love and support, regardless of his or her competitive performance.
Observe your child’s behavior. See if they are developing muscle mass quickly, appear nervous, have mood swings, or spend hours in the gym or working out.
Explain that steroids won’t make them a better athlete. Steroids build muscles, but don’t improve skills such as hand-eye coordination, balance, reaction, or reflexes.
Tell them that taking steroids is considered cheating. It interferes with fair competition. Instead of taking a shortcut, strive to achieve your greatest potential naturally. Set realistic goals and praise yourself when you achieve them.
Talk to a doctor. Talk to a sports medicine specialist about improving your child’s athletic performance naturally. He or she can coach your child on proper nutrition, rest, recuperation, and training techniques to help them achieve their greatest potential.
“If you suspect your child is using steroids, or using any type of unsafe performance enhancing drugs, talk to your child’s pediatrician, or counselor who can assist in devising treatment plans or referring on to a specialist,” said Wagner.
For more information about this topic, visit http://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/anabolic-steroids, or to learn more about HSHS Athletes Advantage Sports Medicine, visit https://athletesadvantage.hshs.org/.