Thursday, March 8, 2012

The Danger of Giving Energy Drinks to Young Athletes

In June 2011, the American Academy of Pediatrics took the position that there is a difference between “sports drinks” and “energy drinks”. This distinction is important to adolescents and is also a microcosm of the American way of life.

As a nation we often seek the most efficient, if not the easiest, way to get a job done. Unfortunately, when it comes to athletic activities, there is no substitute for good old-fashion hard work and persistence.

What Makes Energy Drinks so Dangerous?

Many adults and adolescents will seek that little additional edge in their performance by using supplements. Energy drinks often contain “non-nutritive stimulants” such as caffeine and can run the gamut from 160 mg of caffeine per 8-ounce serving to 300 mg. The exact content and purity of energy drinks cannot be guaranteed since there is no regulatory control over these “supplements” and there may be harmful interaction with prescriptions to control ADHD.

Cola drinks and coffee are also sources of caffeine but possibly due to their long history and wide acceptance by the American public they do not often enter into the “energy drink” conversation. In the United States, cola drinks are controlled by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and are limited to 71 mg of caffeine per 12-ounce serving while 8-ounces of generic coffee has 95-200 mg per serving.

The Link Between Energy Drinks and Heart/Liver Problems

The National Federation of State High School Associations’ position statement on energy drinks states “energy drinks are not appropriate for rehydrating athletes during physical activity and should not be used for that purpose.” The consumption of energy drinks in teens has been linked with heart arrhythmias and liver problems. Last year the Virginia High School League became the first state high school federation to impose a ban on such drinks at high school competitions and practices.

Adolescents should not be viewed as miniature adults. Their biological systems are still developing and may react to outside influences differently than adults.

Combining Energy Drinks with Alcohol

The combination of energy drinks with alcohol can be dangerous for teens. According to the government’s Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration, emergency room visits associated with energy drinks use increased nationally more than ten-fold from 2005 to 2009. Forty-four percent involved combination with alcohol, pharmaceuticals or illicit drugs.

What Makes Sports Drinks Different?

Sports drinks were developed to focus on fluid, carbohydrate and electrolyte replenishment to aid in athletic performance and recovery - typically with a 6-8% carbohydrate concentration.

The Best "Supplement" For Young Athletes

Young athletes should practice and compete without artificial supplements. The best “supplement” for teens is still hard work, eat a well-balanced diet, drink plenty of fluids and get adequate amounts of rest.

Find Safe Sports Drinks, Water Hydration Systems, Cups, Coolers, and More For Your Thirsty Athletes >>
American Academy of Pediatrics. Clinical Report. Sports drinks and energy drinks for children and adolescents: are they appropriate? Pediatrics 2011; 6: 1182-1189
Homes News Tribune newspaper, December 11, 2011

Phil Hossler, ATC has been an athletic trainer on the scholastic, collegiate and Olympic levels. He has authored 4 books and numerous articles and served as an officer in state and regional athletic training associations for 20 years. He is a member of four halls of fame including the National Athletic Trainers’ Association’s.