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.