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Young Athletes on Prescription Medication and Performance Supplements

By Dr. Chris Stankovich


With so many legal, yet potentially unsafe, performance supplements commonly used by young athletes today, it is important for adults to pay close attention to what their kids might be taking in order to improve athletic performance. Nutrition stores nationwide sell countless numbers of products endorsed by star athletes for athletic enhancement, yet very few are approved by the FDA, and even fewer have any longitudinal research findings to reveal what, if any, long-term problems they may cause. This means that we may only just be learning about the potential problems many of these substances may cause or contribute to, making it important to become a concerned potential consumer.

In addition to the widespread availability of performance supplements, more kids than ever before are also on prescription medication, often for conditions that include mood state problems (depression) and attention problems (ADHD). While these medications are prescribed and monitored by physicians (compared to the lack of medical involvement typically associated with performance enhancing supplements), they do have side- and interaction-effects to watch for during usage.

A potentially dangerous situation

As kids mature and their minds and bodies develop, they may be even more at-risk for unplanned changes prompted by the types of foods, supplements, and medications they are taking during this time. Think about the average teenager and all the changes he experiences normally, including physical growth, puberty, and emotional development to name a few. Now throw into the mix a medication (or two), and some untested performance supplements, and you can see that increasingly more kids may be at-risk for toxic interactions that can lead to potentially fatal consequences.

 Play an active role

It is important for adults to “tune in” and get as much quality information as possible when it comes to healthy physical and cognitive development for kids. Important decisions may need to be made around recommended prescription medications, as well as risky products not endorsed by the FDA that may have dangerous side-effects. With so many changes happening through normal teenage development anyway, it is prudent for parents to work with medical experts, ask lots of questions, and make informed, critical decisions around both prescription medications and performance supplements.