Last fall I had the pleasure of speaking to the parents of the wrestlers on my son’s high school team before their first meet. The week before, the coach asked me at one of the practices if I would give a talk on ringworm and the importance of personal hygiene. I dutifully prepared a talk, complete with color handouts, that was certain to drive home the importance of cleanliness. Even the coaches seemed to squirm uncomfortably when I talked about impetigo and "herpes gladiatorum". The talk went well and it was followed by a lively question and answer session.
The parents and coaches asked pertinent questions which led me to believe that the main goal of the talk was accomplished. What happened next however, caught me by surprise. After about 15 minutes of talk about ringworm and impetigo, one mom asked, "My son is a junior and he wants to start working out with creatine. Is it safe?" Then a dad, who looked very much the part of a bodybuilder, said, "Me and my son have been taking creatine and lifting weights for over a year and we have really bulked up." This generated a thirty minute discussion about the pros and cons of the nutritional supplement that has been a real hot topic in the media since the home run race between Mark McGuire and Sammy Sosa.
As McGuire closed in on Roger Maris’ unachievable record of 61 home runs in a single season, one sports reporter covering the story broke the news that McGuire was using creatine. A bottle of the supplement was spotted in his locker and this ignited a national dialogue on creatine. People were divided into opposing camps whether or not McGuire’s record should count. Radio talk show hosts lamented that his record would forever be in the books with a footnote or an asterisk. Others countered that this was nonsense because it was perfectly legal...could be bought at any health food store. Still others incorrectly referred to creatine as a "steroid-like" performance enhancing drug. There was a flurry of misinformation-information that was disseminated over the airways as well as in print. Then as quickly as the controversy started, it seemed to die out overnight. Mark McGuire went on to do the unthinkable, he hit an amazing 70 home runs, and the rest is history.
I forgot about our session in the gym that November night until a few weeks ago. Many of the high schoolers were coming into the office for their physicals for spring sports. Once again the topic of creatine use came up with some frequency. Parents were concerned, some worried, about their children using creatine. They wanted to know if it was safe, a good or bad idea, did it work, and should they let their kids take this.
Next week we will look at creatine and hopefully be able to answer some of these questions.