Where weight counts, it's no secret pro and college team players use creatine supplements to bulk up. But it doesn't stop there, as Bobbi Harley reports. A survey found 44% of high school senior athletes in a New York City suburb took creatine. This is a worrisome trend among young athletes. While creatine is legal, there are questions about its safety.
A 6 foot 3 and 275 pounds, you'd think Matt Varner, a Kings Mountain, North Carolina, high school lineman could tangle with any opposing player on the field. But he thought he needed a little help.
So he tried creatine, a nutritional supplement promising bulk and brawn in a bottle. Because it's a food supplement, it's not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, but that hasn't stopped it from becoming the most popular dietary aid in athletics from the pros to college and now even to high schools.
"I just wanted to be like the seniors you know, be strong like them, you know, because I'm a little puppy and I wanted to be a big dog, just like the seniors. That's why I started taking it," says Matt Varner.
In the short term, studies show it works. "That's why it's so attractive," says Arlette Perry of the Human Performance Laboratory at the University of Miami. "Because it is so important to be bigger and stronger and faster and better and any help, any benefit they can get, particularly one that seems to reap the effects that we see from creatine, is extremely attractive."
A big concern is that this supplement is creating super-sized, overweight teenagers, most of whom will never see an athletic career in college, let alone in the professional leagues.
"All of a sudden they come into a totally different lifestyle," says Jerry Diehl of the National Federation of State High School Associations. "They're not exercising, now all of that is going to be turned into fat and creating a health problem."
Not only that, experts can't say what the long-term effects of creatine are, but they do know it can cause dehydration and muscle cramps. Even so, since it burst on to the scene when baseball major leaguers Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire admitted using it during their season of home run records, sales have only continued to skyrocket-- to an estimated $400 million a year.
"It's hard, it's a tough sell as a coach to go against what a professional athlete is saying or what a professional athlete is endorsing or how they endorse these products to entice the young male athletes," says Kings Mountain High School coach Dave Farquhars.
It's an attraction apparently so alluring there have been reports of high school coaches giving it out, even selling it to their young athletes.
As for Matt, he's kept on the 15 pounds he gained from using creatine, but he's stopped taking it, opting instead to do it the old-fashioned way: hard work.
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