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Creatine Use Spreads to High School Athletes

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This rate of high school creatine use compares with previous studies reporting that 32% of college athletes used the substance, as did 25-75% of professional football players and about 45% of a group of Norwegian weightlifters aged 17-31.

One of the most significant problems the researchers identified was that neither the scientific community nor the youngsters themselves have enough information about creatine's use or effects. They discovered that most high school creatine users get their information from friends and then purchase the substance in health food stores.

The authors also point out that that creatine, as a supplement, isn't regulated by the FDA, which may pose another problem. Substances sold as creatine may actually contain very little of the supplement or -- worse yet -- may contain other ingredients that could have their own ill effects.

According to the authors, the FDA and the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) have both expressed concern about creatine's effects because of reports of muscle cramping, strains, dehydration, stomach problems, nausea, and seizures in those who use it. But no studies have been done on these side effects either. Experts say it would be difficult to assess such health problems because creatine supplementation is relatively new.

Brian Robinson, MS, ATC/L, head athletic trainer for Glenbrook South High School in Glenview, Ill., says that he believes creatine use among high school athletes is less prevalent than it was about three years ago. But many students are still willing to try it, he says.

"We seem to live in a quick-fix society, and high school kids are looking for anything that will make them bigger, faster, stronger," Robinson tells WebMD. One of the reasons the teenagers are curious about creatine is the college athletes come home and talk about how big and strong they're getting and that they are taking the supplement. So the high schoolers think it's the creatine, but they don't realize that the football player is in heavy training and in the weight room three times a week."

The Mayo Clinic study showed that 85% of the high school respondents bought creatine in health food stores. Other studies had previously reported that college athletes generally obtained it directly from their training room. The NCAA has now passed a rule restricting this practice.

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