Stories about doping - using performance-enhancing drugs - among professional and Olympic athletes have been regular fodder for the news media in recent years, but what about the trend in use by younger, more vulnerable high school-aged athletes?
A report released by the University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children's Hospital National Poll on Children's Health finds that nearly 1 in 10 parents of high school athletes is aware of the use of performance-enhancing drugs by an athlete in their community. The poll also finds that most parents feel that schools - with minimal penalties to individual students - should be responsible for handling the problem.
"One in ten is a particularly high rate of use of performance-enhancing drugs by high school athletes," says Matthew M. Davis, M.D., M.A.P.P., director of the National Poll on Children's Health. "Risk of injury tends to be higher when athletes who engage in physical activity have greater muscle bulk due to the use of performance-enhancing drugs."
According to the poll, 75 percent of parents of high school athletes support random drug testing within the schools. However, only 43 percent feel that individuals who test positive should be reported to state agencies. Furthermore, though slightly more than one-half of parents have talked with their children about the dangers of P-E drug use, 97 percent believe that high school coaches should be required to communicate the dangers of P-E drugs to students.
"Parents may feel that high school coaches will be more effective in teaching the dangers of P-E drugs to high school athletes." Davis says. "Coaches lend a certain voice; the same person who is telling them to be competitive may also be compelling in getting them to understand the dangers they face if they choose to use [performance-enhancing drugs]."
Among parents of high school athletes, the National Poll on Children's Health finds:
- 76 percent think schools should be required to report to the number and percentage of positive tests to the state. However, only 43 percent are in favor of reporting individual names of athletes who test positive.
- 89 percent support counseling and treatment within the schools
- 57 percent have talked with their children about P-E drugs.
- 53 percent support banning the student for remainder of the season
- 46 percent support the forfeiting of individual win or award
- 32 percent support banning the student from all sports team for a year
- 19 percent support forfeiting team wins or awards
"When it comes to consequences, parents tend to favor anonymous reporting rather than individual penalties for the kids themselves," Davis says. "Parents seem to understand that there is some value to school-level reporting because most of them support counseling and treatment within the school, but what parents tend not to favor is individual penalties for an athlete that may stigmatize an athlete in the eyes of their school or their peers. State and local agencies dealing with this issue need to keep parents' opinions in mind as they move to create legislation to deal with the issue."
For the complete report and podcast about poll results, visit the C.S. Mott Children's Hospital National Poll on Children's Health online at www.med.umich.edu/mott/npch .
Methodology: For its report, the National Poll on Children's Health used data from a national online survey conducted in August 2008 in collaboration with Knowledge Networks, Inc. The survey was administered to a random sample of 2,245 adults, ages 18 and older, who are a part of Knowledge Network's online KnowledgePanel®. The sample was subsequently weighted to reflect U.S. population figures from the U.S. Census Bureau. About three-fourths of the sample were households with children. To learn more about Knowledge Networks, visit www.knowledgenetworks.com .
Purpose/Funding: The C.S. Mott Children's Hospital National Poll on Children's Health - funded by the Department of Pediatrics and Communicable Diseases and part of the CHEAR Unit at the U-M Health System - is designed to measure major health care issues and trends for U.S. children.