Steroid use today can spell disaster in the future for the estimated 500,000 to 1,000,000 student athletes who take performance-enhancing drugs. While young athletes using steroids think that they are improving their performance, they may be causing damage to their bodies — damage that will last far longer than their athletic careers.
Some of the major effects of anabolic steroid use can include liver tumors, jaundice, high blood pressure, fertility problems, and heart disease. Steroid users may also suffer excessive irritability, delusions, and extreme mood swings. At Congressional hearings on steroid use, government officials and professional athletes alike were moved to tears by families who spoke of their athletic, popular, teenage children committing suicide after using steroids.
The good news is that you can help spare other families such grief. By getting out the word to student athletes, their coaches, and their parents that steroid use can seriously jeopardize health, you can make teenagers winners at the biggest game of all — life.
I Did This!
Most high schools have mandatory orientation meetings for athletes and their parents at the beginning of a sports season. Give each parent there a printout listing emotional, physical, and behavioral warning signs of steroid use. Give each student a copy of The Taylor Hooton Story, a true account of a 17-year-old who committed suicide after steroid use caused him to have extreme mood swings.
Organize a community seminar with a speaker from the Taylor Hooton Foundation. Invite local junior high and high school students, their parents, and their coaches to attend.
Print out copies of the I Play Clean pledge for coaches and students to sign. Then, take a picture of each person to post on the I Play Clean website alongside the pictures of other professional and amateur athletes who have professed that they will not use steroids.
Order posters discouraging steroid use from the National Institute on Drug Abuse and get permission to post them in both male and female locker rooms at local high schools. The poster "Steroids: Know Your Opposition" features different side effects of steroid use. Another, "Steroids: Not in My Game Plan," appeals to personal integrity.
Print out postcards as reminders to student athletes that steroid use is both illegal and dangerous. Encourage coaches to send them to their athletes mid-season.
Student athletes are usually required to get a physical before being allowed to participate in extracurricular sports. Encourage local pediatricians and family practitioners to use these check-ups as an opportunity to warn students about the side effects of steroids. Print handouts from the American Academy of Pediatrics on the side effects of steroid use and have doctors give them to their patients at these check-ups.
Encourage health educators to discuss steroid use when teaching units such as drug education and body image. Copy this New York Times article featuring real-life accounts by teenagers as a starting point for discussion.