Virginia High School League Bans Energy Drinks

Energy drinks came under the scrutiny of the Virginia High School League last week as the policy committee met to discuss the use of these popular beverages by student athletes.   At the September 22 meeting the VHSL Executive Committee passed an energy drink policy which went into effect immediately for all VHSL member schools. The VHSL, which oversees all public schools in Virginia, considered the proposal after it was recommended by its Sports Medicine Advisory Committee.

The rule stipulates that “athletes not consume energy drinks during participation in VHSL practices and competition, “ because of “potential serious safety and health issue.” The penalty for violation of this rule is a warning to the member school, but stricter penalties could follow.

The action is in response to growing concern that consumption may be unsafe for adolescent athletes. These beverages are often being used by students for fluid replacement when they are in fact unsuitable for fluid replacement after strenuous activity. The high levels of caffeine in the beverages act as a diuretic when the body is at rest, thus inhibiting the body’s ability to re-hydrate after exercise. There is also a concern over the lack of regulatory control over energy drinks, specifically that their content and purity cannot be ensured.   This may lead to adverse side-effects, for student athletes or positive drug tests.

The National Federation of State High School Associations, in its position statement on energy drinks reported that in 2006, “over 7 million adolescents reported that they had consumed and energy drink.” The widespread usage has brought national focus to the issue. Virginia’s ban, was based on the NFHS position statement, and states:

  • Energy drinks should not be used for hydration.
  • Energy drinks should not be consumed by athletes who are dehydrated.
  • There is no regulatory control over energy drinks, thus their content and purity cannot be ensured. This may lead to adverse side-effects, potentially harmful interactions with prescription medications (particularly stimulant medications used to treat ADHD), or positive drug tests.

In the policy statement Energy Drinks are defined as drinks advertised as boosting energy.   These drinks do not emphasize energy derived from the calories they contain but rather through a choice of caffeine, vitamins and herbal supplements the manufacturer has combined. Some common examples of energy drinks are Amp, Monster and Red Bull.

These are not to be confused with Fluid Replacement Drinks or drinks used to replenish body fluid after exercise. Fluid Replacement Drinks are defined as drinks that are designed to replace energy and electrolytes, used to assist the body in recovering from exercise. Some common examples of Fluid Replacement Drinks are Gatorade and Powerade.

Soft drinks such as Coke and Pepsi,   while not fluid replacement drinks,   are not classified as energy drinks either.

The new rule was adopted by a vote of 24-2. Schools will now need to implement educational plans for students and parents and coaches to ensure compliance with the new policy.


  1. So, don’t drink them, but we don’t know how we’re going to enforce the rule or punish people who violate it. How do you test for energy drink usage? Look for empty cans or bottles in the locker rooms? Dick and Jane run faster today than they did yesterday? Johnny pulled an allnighter to study for a test he normally wouldn’t have passed? Cheryl plays the flute faster today than yesterday? Eddie isn’t coloring within the lines? This is laughable.

  2. Tony Parrott says:

    Good Move!

  3. Naked Truth says:

    Now if they can only stop the alcohol use.

  4. Bout time. All those drinks do is dehydrate you. Most coaches don’t like them, the kids do it anyway. What ever happened to water, fruits and veggies?

    • “What ever happened to water, fruits and veggies?”

      Still there. Problem is the profits for such goodness pale in comparison to the industry that Gatorade spawned. Further, the demand in this branch of the beverage market is fed by effective marketing schemes. Product placement on the net and in movies, sexy advertising, cool multimedia, … not so glamorous with H20 and such.

      FWIW kudos to the VHSL for understanding this and stepping in with something more than rhetoric.

      • trick or treat says:

        Check out the movie “Idiocracy”

      • I’m not so much concerned with gatorade, which replenishes electrolytes and such, but is not the concern more for drinks like Red Bull??? Some of those also contain alcohol as well, btw

        • ” … the industry that Gatorade spawned …”

          Please don’t be confused by this statement. I’m all for electrolyte replacement; I drink Gatorade often when I’m out making hay, albeit nothing beats cold water on a hot day. These energy drinks are the next generation, and have no place on the athlete’s training table. I’ve tried Red Bull, and frankly I think it tastes like kerosene.