Essay, Research Paper: Creatine In Baseball

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Mark McGwire uses it. Sammy Sosa uses it. The Atlanta Braves have tubs of it in
their locker room. Then why does Scott Carnahan, Linfield College’s varsity
baseball coach and coach of the 1994 U.S.A. Olympic baseball team emphasize,
“I will not participate in distributing it to any of my players”? It is
Creatine and it has become a health concern among most NCAA baseball coaches in
Oregon. Creatine is a substance that is naturally produced in every human being.
Every adult has around 130 grams of Creatine in their body. It allows us to run
fast, lift hard, and react quickly. These are all the essentials of NCAA
baseball. In recent years, Creatine had been developed as a food supplement to
enhance muscle performance. So why wouldn’t NCAA baseball coaches in Oregon
distribute the food supplement known as Creatine to their athletes? Yes, it is
expensive at $49.99 for 100 grams of powder. But, many coaches in the National
Collegiate Athletic Association (an association that regulates many
intercollegiate sports) are more concerned about the safety of the player. There
are six NCAA baseball teams in Oregon. These teams work hard every year to
accomplish a winning season, a conference title, or a national championship.
Players at Linfield, George Fox, Willamette, Oregon State, Pacific, and
University of Portland face the pressure to win every season. Linfield College
pitcher, Geoff Phillips describes the pressure as, relentless. “There is
always pressure to work hard in the weight room and train at 100%. Most of the
pressure comes from the competition we face and our personal desire to win,”
said Phillips. 1 To compete at their highest level, ball players have to find
time to bulk up. Weight lifting has always been a part of college baseball.
After all, modern athletes develop their strength and endurance in the weight
room. But, where once players spent 3-5 hours a week in the weight room, most
players now lift 8-10 hours a week. Oregon State’s head baseball coach, Pat
Casey reached his 100th victory last year, the first OSU coach to do so in fewer
than 5 years. “Winning isn’t something that comes natural. It takes a lot of
hard work outside of practice,” Casey stated in an OSU publication. Linfield
head baseball coach, Carnahan, agrees. He assigns a workout schedule that works
all major muscle groups and many minor muscle groups. It’s a similar story in
the Willamette weight room where players work each body part twice a week.
“This could take up to 6 days a week depending on how many body parts they
work on a day,” said Coach Wong. The fact is everybody wants to win. Tough
competition and personal desire to win causes a lot of college players in Oregon
to take Creatine as a means of boosting their athletic performance. It became a
part of NCAA baseball in the middle 1990’s when studies showed that Creatine
might enhance player capabilities. According to the NCAA Guide Line, Creatine
has been found in some laboratory studies to enhance short term, high-intensity
exercise capability, delay fatigue and increase strength. Creatine can also
increase muscle strength as much as one and one half times quicker than
non-users, according to the Natural Medicines comprehensive database. Although
several studies have contradicted the efficiency of Creatine, it has been 2 very
popular among ball players. One survey conducted by the American College of
Sports Medicine indicated that 30% of all male collegiate athletes had used
Creatine at one time. On average, there are 45 players that compete on NCAA
baseball teams in Oregon. Of the six NCAA programs in Oregon, four teams
reported that nearly half of their players had used Creatine during the season.
Creatine has produced the kind of results that some players are looking for. A
Linfield pitcher states that many players on his team are experiencing positive
results. “Probably about half of our team had taken Creatine. It has allowed
our players to workout harder and longer,” said Phillips. Second baseman,
Kevin Hill, has also had good results using Creatine. “For the past month and
a half Creatine has helped me to gain weight and lift at the level I want to,”
said Hill. Doctor Kerry Kuehl, Director of Human Performance Lab for OHSU,
hosted a seminar at Mcminnville high school called, “Creatine Talk.” He
explained that many athletes experience fewer problems with Creatine when it is
taken in moderation. “Many athletes feel that since Creatine is meant for
short-term, high-intensity workouts that it is okay to take more than the
recommended two to five grams a day. That is not the case,” he said. Doctor
Kuehl added that sometimes athletes take two, three or sometimes four times the
recommended dose even though it doesn’t pay to do so. Pitcher Damon Lorenz
from George Fox had been using Creatine during the 98’ season. “For the one
month I was using Creatine, it worked well. There has been a lot of controversy
about it, but as long as I have a lot of success in the weight room, I will
continue to use it,” he said. Some baseball players have not been as fortunate
using. In 1998, one 3 OSU player using Creatine had experienced severe stomach
problems. Oregon State trainers learned that Creatine was eating at the
players’ stomach creating an ulcer. An article in the Stateman Journal stated
that an athlete from Beaverton played in his last athletic event last month when
he dropped dead during one college game. The reason is unknown, but officials do
know that the athlete was taking Creatine at the time of his death. Rite Aid
pharmacy manager, Sheri Siddal, says that even though there have not been any
long-term effects linked to Creatine, it could disrupt certain conditions. A
study conducted by Natural Medicines stated that Creatine could exacerbate
kidney and liver disfunctions. “Many athletes aren’t aware that they have a
kidney or liver problem and that it (Creatine) could exacerbate their condition
without them knowing about it,” said Siddal. Some researcher’s fear that,
with the amount of extra Creatine contrived through the diet, the body might
stop producing it all together. Because there has not been any long term
studies, nobody knows for sure. The only way we will find out the negative
effects of long term use is time. However, the short-term effects have been
determined. Studies show that Creatine has been known to cause weight gain.
There had also been a number of anecdotal reports claiming that Creatine
supplementation may cause an upset stomach, diarrhea, promote muscle
strains/pulls, or contribute to muscle cramps. Lorenz, from George Fox, battled
some effects daily. Although Lorenz did claim that Creatine helped enhance his
workout, he also claims that he experienced weight gain and dehydration.
“Sometimes when I was working out it seemed likr I could lift for hours
without drinking much water.” The body is 80% water. Most of the weight that
player’s on Creatine gain is 4 water weight. So how can the body dehydrate if
players gain water weight? Well, water that is naturally absorbed circulates
throughout the whole body. When a player takes Creatine, most of the water in
the body runs straight to the skeletal muscles causing other areas of the body
to lack water. That is why it is crucial that all players using Creatine drink a
lot of water. Of course, each body reacts in a different way. A survey by the
Physician and Sports Medicine reported that 25% of 52 male collegiate athletes
reported muscle cramping when they took Creatine. Interestingly, all but two of
the athletes that reported muscle cramping also experienced either diarrhea or
dehydration. Some researchers argue that the reason why some male collegiate
athletes experience side effects and other don’t are because they are not
taking all the necessary precautions. Many Oregon collegiate baseball players
know what they are getting into when they choose to bulk up with Creatine. Many
of the NCAA players who take it do understand that the long-term effects have
not been determined. They know that some players have had bad experiences. They
are certainly aware that Creatine decreases fatique and can build muscle mass.
However, they do not know what they are getting in each bottle. The FDA (Food
and Drug Administration) found many bottles of Creatine with different
ingredient levels. Doctor Kuehl, Director Human Performance at OHSU Department
of Medicine, says that calcium and calorie levels were sometimes different then
what the bottle read. What does this do to the athlete? Dr. Kuehl says they have
not yet found what kind of impact this could have on athletes. “We don’t
know if or how this will 5 impact athletic performance. It is not a good thing
when you think you are taking more then what you really are, or vice versa,”
said Dr. Kuehl. Initially, the FDA did not test Creatine because it qualified as
a food supplement. “The reason why the FDA tested Creatine was because they
were concerned. They had received enough case reports to do so,” Dr. Kuehl
added. So, what is the NCAA doing during all this? The NCAA has certain set
regulations to protect the safety of the players and the institution. When
Creatine became popular in the NCAA many teams were distributing it to their
players. The NCAA makes a point of backing their position of maintaining high
standards of personal honor, eligibility, and fair play. As expected, Creatine
was not on the banned drug list. Recently, the NCAA held a committee meeting
about the distribution of Creatine. “The committee recommends that the
provision of weight-gain and muscle/strength building supplement products to
student-athletes by member institutions and their personnel be nonpermissible at
all times.” This means that no team may use NCAA funds, school funds
(including team funds) or personal funds to distribute Creatine or any other
supplements that enhance performance. According to a letter distributed by the
Committee Chair of the NCAA, William Arnet, schools should be encouraging access
to competent nutritional advice. The NCAA expects trainers, coaches, and
athletic director to educate players about Creatine. One doctor from the Doctors
Clinic in Salem takes it upon himself to educate patients about Creatine. Dr.
David Edmonds, an expert in family practice, believes all 6 patients should know
the risks of Creatine. “It is important that baseball players and all athletes
know the truths,” said Dr. Edmonds. “I think many coaches tell players what
they want to hear,” he added. In the thirteen years that Dr. Edmonds has been
practicing at the Doctors Clinic he hardly heard any complaints about Creatine.
Still, every time a patient inquires about Creatine Edmonds states the facts.
Yes, Creatine can enhance athletic capability. Yes, Creatine can be dangerous.
New York Yankee star, Scott Brosius, chooses not to take Creatine because he
does not want to take a risk. Brosius, a third baseman for the World Series
champions, recently received big honors for his talent in the big leagues. In
1998, Brosius lead the Yankees to a four-game sweep against the Padres to win
his first championship. Brosius was named M.V.P. of the World Series in 1998,
and was honored with the Golden Glove Award for his excellent fielding in the
1999 World Series championship. Brosius attended Linfield Collge located in
Mcminnville, Oregon. While at Linfield, he excelled on the field and kept the
same attitude as he does for the Yankees. “The problem is that many players
say if a little is good, than a lot of must be better. That is where the problem
occurs,” said Brosius. Brosius does feel Creatine can be used safely, but
according to the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database that could be an
overstatement. They define Creatine as, “possibly safe,” and “somewhat
effective.” Brosius feels that Creatine runs a serious risk to the players’
body since it makes their body’s grow faster than nature intends it.
Sometimes, the muscles can develop so strong that they cause injuries to the
body. “I have heard cases where players experienced a higher increase of
muscle pulls and strains while on Creatine,” said Brosius. 7 Brosius believes
that Creatine should be ban at the collegiate level because it is very hard to
supervise ball players. George Fox coach, Pat Bailey, states, “I honestly have
no idea how many of my players are currently using Creatine.” Earlier a George
Fox pitcher quoted that nearly half of the team was taking Creatine at one point
during the season. If the players are to receive the kind of supervision they
need, it obviously needs to come from a coach or a trainer. Brosius mentioned
that a majority of NCAA coaches in Oregon, are not properly educated about
Creatine. They are familiar with its purpose and some adverse effects, but that
is the extent of it. Should the NCAA be responsible for coaches that are
uneducated about Creatine? In the 1999-00 NCAA Manual, the committee recommends
that coaches should educate or “advise” athletes about Creatine, however,
the NCAA does not consider educating coaches important enough to make it a
permissible expense. Considering how little coaches and players know, it
probably should be. Brosius has good reasons why he chooses not to use Creatine.
He is concerned about his future health. “I personally don’t use it because
I do not want to assume the risks of injury. I will not sell my post baseball
life out for something I do not feel I need,” Brosius added. Collegiate
baseball players in Oregon know they do not need Creatine. However, they are
fascinated with its capabilities. They see McGwire hit 70 homeruns and they
think, what could Creatine do to my game? If Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire can
suddenly slam in 136 homeruns in one season, then it must work. Most NCAA
coaches in Oregon are concerned about players taking Creatine. Coaches at
Linfield, George 8 Fox, Willamette and Oregon State do permit Creatine use, but
do not recommend it. Hill, second baseman for Linfield, says that coach Carnahan
had told him in the beginning that there is no telling what could happen with
Creatine long term. He also told Hill that it is a personal choice and it was up
to him to roll the dice. “It is a lot like gambling,” said Dr. Edmonds. It
is a game of craps, and most NCAA coaches in Oregon are not thrilled with the
odds. “Players should train hard in the off season and maintain their ability
without using Creatine,” said Carnahan. Even though Willamette coach, David
Wong was unaware of any Bearcat players taking Creatine, he feels if it ends up
the NCAA finds something wrong with Creatine they should make every effort to
stop the distribution and intake of it. George Fox coach Pat Bailey had a
similarly agrees. “If proven potentially harmful, the NCAA should ban Creatine.”
In the future Creatine may or may not join the ban drug list depending on future
test results. The NCAA committee, coaches, and players have agreed that Creatine
can be potentially harmful. Proving it has been quite a different story. The
NCAA committee heads need more than just case studies and theories to prove that
Creatine is potentially harmful. They need a strong long-term study that shows
what exactly Creatine is doing to players and how the result could harm them.
Dr. Kuehl and many other sports medicine experts at OSHU continue to work hard
at finding the answer to the long-term effects of Creatine. Meanwhile players
ask themselves. Is “possibly safe” good enough for me? Do I want to roll the
dice? How long should I gamble against the circumstances? Will my billfold
support the food supplement for as long as I am taking it? 9 All that NCAA
baseball players and coaches in Oregon can do is wait. Wait to find out Creatine
is a miracle drug. Wait to find out it causes kidney failure. Who knows what
they will be waiting on? At this point, hope is all NCAA players in Oregon can
rely on.
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