USA Football Health and Safety Blog
Now that the ice is melting and warm weather sporting activities are getting under way across the country, it is just a matter of time before one or more high profile professional athletes get caught using anabolic steroids or other appearance and performance enhancing drugs (APEDs). The media will be catapulted into a fever pitch as disappointed fans become embarrassed for their athletes and their teams.
But, as tragic as those events will be, they pale in comparison to the daily occurrence of this drug use by America’s youth.
My son, Taylor, died after using anabolic steroids. A high school baseball player, this 6-foot-2, 180-pound 16-year-old made the decision to use drugs after he was told that he needed to “get bigger” to make the varsity team. We later learned that half of his teammates were using steroids, so the peer pressure to resort to drugs made Taylor’s decision a relatively easy one.
As parents, we were surprised to learn the danger of APEDs and shocked to learn how many kids are using them. We formed the non-profit Taylor Hooton Foundation
to address this issue, to raise awareness about how widespread this drug use is and to educate people about how dangerous steroids and other APEDs can be. We are now widely recognized as America’s leader on this topic.
Many reading this blog are thinking, “This subject doesn’t apply to me. The players on my child’s team aren’t using steroids. And I know that my child wouldn’t use drugs like these.” That’s what we thought before our son, Taylor, died.
The most recent study focused on youth steroid use
, conducted by the University of Minnesota, was published 14 months ago. The study of more than 2,700 adolescents found that “the use of muscle-enhancing behaviors is higher than has been previously reported and is cause for concern.” Nearly 6 percent of boys and 4.6 percent of girls in middle and high school admitted to using anabolic steroids.
Applied across the national population, this indicates that more than 1.5 million of our children have used or are using steroids and tells us that as many as 25 to 45 students are using steroids in the average U.S. high school – or about one per classroom.
On the heels of the Minnesota study, we helped underwrite a national study to determine the knowledge level of the U.S. adult population about this problem. This 2013 University of Massachusetts-designed household survey
told us that adults are virtually oblivious to the fact that this problem even exists. Only 17 percent of American adults see steroid usage as a big problem among high school athletes.
Frankly, I’m not surprised that adults are so unaware. Our kids keep this behavior secret and deny their usage, just like their role models do. And while we focus nonstop attention on this subject whenever an elite athlete is accused of doping, few have focused on a more serious component of this behavior, the fact that so many of our children are using these drugs.
Think about this: If every single NFL and MLB player was using anabolic steroids – they aren’t – we couldn’t fill a typical high school football stadium. But we have enough children using these drugs to fill up either nearly every Major League ballpark in the country or about 20 NFL stadiums.
Don Hooton Sr.serves as president of the Taylor Hooton Foundation and sits on the foundation’s Board of Directors. He and his family founded the Taylor Hooton Foundation in 2004, the year following the loss of his son, Taylor. The foundation is widely recognized as the national leader on the subject of the use of APEDs by the youth of America. Its mission is to educate America’s youth about the dangers of APEDs and to equip adult leaders to engage. To learn more, watch this video.
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