I just read this article this morning…I don’t even know what to say. I thought some of you might find it interesting.
The Irish Rugby Football Union are developing an education programme throughout the underage system in schools, so great are concerns about the use of dangerous supplements like creatine amongst rugby-playing school boys.
Ruth Wood-Martin, the IRFU Performance Nutritionist said: “We actively discourage the use of supplements in underage players and we are developing a programme that will focus on how eating and drinking well is the most effective nutrition strategy to support hard training and quick recovery.”
After routine drug testing was carried out at an under-18 Six Nations Championship match in Cork last year, there are now calls for the anti-doping committee of the Irish Sports Council to investigate under-age sport at a national level.
As rugby schools ‘go to war’ and young players bulk up on sports supplements and performance-enhancing drugs, the fear is that they may be harming themselves in the long term.
A former leading school-rugby star says: “Many players don’t take supplements correctly and some people as young as second and third year had no notion of where products such as no-xplode, armagedin, norateen and creatine came from.
“Some are safe to be using if regulated properly but if taken in large doses they can be harmful. If they hear that people are using it, then that’s usually good enough for them and long-term effects don’t come into it.”
He explained that there is huge pressure within the school rugby system to perform — so the desire is there on the part of students to get an extra edge on muscle mass which a supplement can offer. “The impression is out there that if you have a ‘big’ team you will win and in some cases games masters turn a blind eye. We knew of side effects but everyone thinks ‘that’s not going to happen to me’.”
Protein supplements and creatine are available in health food shops around the country online and some students even set up their own businesses within the school, oblivious to the long-term muscle damage when taken by children under the age of 18.
It was reported on the Off the Ball show on Newstalk last week that an advertisement for supplements was recently removed from a school notice-board. According to a recent article, the vast majority of these mixtures are unregulated and an ongoing study in the US found that 75 per cent of them contained banned substances such as anabolic steroids. Leading personal trainer Marc Smith believes the problem is growing rapidly and evidence is the remarkable difference in size between the school boys of a few years ago compared to those of today.
“Young boys are trying to lump on muscle. They see the internationals and want to be as big as them with weight and protein supplements as the means to an end. It’s one dimensional and they believe these are the ingredients to make them better rugby players but it is destroying them and they will feel the effects in years to come.
“These protein and body building shakes they are bulking up on, no ones knows where they are coming from. Some say the ingredients are thrown into a cement mixer to mix them up.”
Exercise and performance specialist Niall Hobbert asks how many of the schools are hiring in professional or qualified people to train the teams safely and he doesn’t mean qualified rugby coaches but qualified strength and conditioning coaches, sports doctors and sports nutritionists. He said: “Through my experience I see misguided players who are physically imbalanced, nutritionally misguided and injury prone and who are led to believe what they are doing is right because they trust in their coaches and teachers.”
The same young rugby player I spoke to severely damaged his shoulder because of a poor weights programme he was given from his school coach which resulted in him being away from rugby for some time. “A proper weights programme, diet and training combined will make a better player. The sooner the players realise one can’t get all the ingredients that make a great rugby player out of a bottle the better,” he said.