The recent controversy surrounding Alex Rodriguez, Ryan Braun and the Biogenesis anti-aging clinic that was selling performance-enhancing drugs to professional athletes has re-ignited discussions about the prevalence of PED use among modern athletes.
While these substances are typically linked to elite Major League Baseball and National Football League stars, the fact is that use of PEDs by professionals has inspired younger, amateur athletes in high school and college to experiment with anabolic steroids, human growth hormone (HGH) and other treatments that make it easier for users to bulk up and add muscle.
According to the New York Times, a recent study by researchers at the University of Minnesota surveyed nearly 2,800 middle and high school students in the Twin Cities area to determine the rates of PED use. The research team found that roughly 5 percent of respondents had used some form of anabolic steroids, and that about one-third of boys had consumed protein supplements and creatine, which is also used increase muscle mass.
Besides the fact that steroids and PEDs in general are illegal, they can also cause severe health problems for those who abuse them. Steroids are essentially synthetic testosterone, so athletes that use them can experience violent mood swings, accelerated puberty and stunted growth.
The authors of the study believe that one of the factors influencing the decision by young people to take these substances is rampant exposure to media that reinforces the notions about the "ideal" body type. Another factor is the advantage of improved prospects for getting into college programs or competing at the professional level.
Coaches and parents looking for ways to discourage use of these substances should stress the negative health consequences and the fact that colleges are cracking down on steroid users through more aggressive testing policies. While less dramatic, similar advantages can be gained through an aggressive "natural" sports training regement.
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