New York, NY—August 7, 2001
A study of creatine use among young athletes was released yesterday by Dr. Jordan Metzl of the Sports Medicine Institute for Young Athletes at Hospital for Special Surgery in New York. Conducted with 1103 middle and high school student athletes in Westchester County, New York, the study showed that 5.6% of the surveyed students admitted taking the performance-enhancing nutritional supplement. The study published in the August issue of Pediatrics, the scientific journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, is the first to look at creatine use in children.
Use of the supplement was reported in every grade from 6 to 12, with 44% of grade 12 athletes surveyed reported using creatine. According to the study, the most common reasons cited for usage were enhanced performance (74.2% of users) and improved appearance (61.3%). The study also found the most common reason cited for not taking creatine was safety (45.7% of nonusers). Although creatine was taken by participants in every sport, use was significantly more common among football players, wrestlers, hockey players, gymnasts, and lacrosse players.
With sales of creatine jumping from $100 million to $400 million in the past three years, it is not surprising that a recent survey showed 44 percent of high school seniors are taking it to improve sports performance.
"If this study is representative, there are probably over two million American kids and teens taking creatine to give themselves a competitive edge. Not only can creatine use lead to steroid use, but we have no idea whether or not creatine is safe," notes Dr. Metzl.
Last year, a related natural substance, androsteinedione, popularized by professional baseball player Mark McGuire, was discovered to stunt bone and genital growth. (JAMA medical journal, April 2000) "Today's kids should be lifting weights to gain strength, not taking untested substances," Metzl adds.
Metzl cites a poll indicating 98 percent of U.S. Olympians would take a performance enhancing substance if they knew they wouldn't get caught. The same poll showed that over 50 percent of U.S. Olympians would take the same undetectable substance if they could win every competition for five years and then die.
Young athletes are particularly prone to go to any lengths to win, regardless of the cost, according to Dr. Metzl. "When you are young, winning is everything. You aren't as likely to think about consequences," he suggests.
About Hospital for Special Surgery
Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS) is the world’s largest academic medical center focused on musculoskeletal health. HSS is nationally ranked No. 1 in orthopedics and No. 2 in rheumatology by U.S. News & World Report (2016-2017), and is the first hospital in New York State to receive Magnet Recognition for Excellence in Nursing Service from the American Nurses Credentialing Center four consecutive times. HSS has one of the lowest infection rates in the country. HSS is an affiliate of Weill Cornell Medical College and as such all Hospital for Special Surgery medical staff are faculty of Weill Cornell. The hospital's research division is internationally recognized as a leader in the investigation of musculoskeletal and autoimmune diseases. Hospital for Special Surgery is located in New York City and online at www.hss.edu.