Family Matters

Study: To Build a Better Youth Athlete, Slug Sports Drinks

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Team sports ain’t what they used to be. Parents jeer, coaches demand and kids — understandably — are under a lot of pressure to perform.

Competition, even at young ages, can be intense. Evidence of that intensity is translating to an increase in childhood and adolescent injuries, as discussed by the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. Nor are broken bones and muscle tears the only problem. The brain is getting battered too, according to a new Pediatrics study that documents a 70% increase in traumatic brain injuries among youth basketball players.

But enough about injuries; let’s talk stamina. On those days your child needs a little extra boost on the football field, forget the energy bars; it’s energy drinks your budding Heisman Trophy-winner needs.

Researchers at the University of Edinburgh found 12- to 14-year-olds last longer when they slug an isotonic sports drink before and during matches. The small study followed 15 teens as they participated in exercise that made them huff and puff as they would were they playing rugby, hockey or football.

The drinks — which help keep kids hydrated and energized by replacing lost fluid and electrolytes — seemed to help the kids continue playing up to 24% longer as compared to a control group, according to research published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology. “This could contribute to improved performance in adolescents,” says John Sproule, head of the Institute of Sport, Physical Education and Health Sciences at the University of Edinburgh.

Sounds like liquid steroids – yet legal and available at the grocery store. Wannabe track stars, by the way, are out of luck: the 6% carbohydrate-electrolyte solution chock-full of sodium, potassium, magnesium and calcium had no effect on players’ ability to run faster during the intermittent exercise that’s part of team sports.

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