Miles Kliever, Apex High’s certified athletic trainer, said he normally expects a freshman football player to gain 20 to 30 pounds during his high school career.
That, he said, is a normal gain for young athletes who still are maturing.
But some players want to gain more and gain it quickly.
“I’m advising proper diet and the weight room, and they are taking a supplement somebody recommended and are eating lunch at Bojangles’,” Kliever said. “The athlete pays for it eventually.
“The kids are looking for a magic pill or a supplement that will add the strength and weight overnight.
“There is no such thing. As certified athletic trainers, we are telling the kids how to achieve their goals slowly by working. But there is always somebody who will tell an athlete what he wants to hear. ”
The pressure to add weight to increase the chance of receiving an athletic scholarship is misguided, said Dr. Julie Wilson of the Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. She said society has the wrong priority if the focus of physical activity is the pursuit of a scholarship or a professional contract. Most athletes will not participate in college sports.
Only about 2 percent of the more than 1.1 million high school football players in the country will receive a college athletic scholarship, according to the NCAA and the National Federation of State High School Associations.
“We’re encouraging bigger, stronger, faster, but we are missing something,” Wilson said. “We need to be encouraging young people to find activities they enjoy and that they can do the rest of their life to stay healthy. Physical activity is medicine, good medicine, and we are not teaching that lesson well. We want them to be healthy in the long run.”
Long-term payoff: obesity
For some players, the lasting payoff is obesity and its affiliated problems. The problems with obesity may not be apparent during players’ active careers, Wilson said.
Obesity is defined as having a body mass index of 30 or higher. The BMI uses a ratio between height and weight. For example, a 5-foot-10 person is in the normal range at 167 pounds, but is overweight at 174 pounds, obese at 209 pounds and extremely obese above 278. The chart does not take into account muscular fitness.
Wilson, whose specialty is pediatric sports medicine, said studies indicate that obese athletes don’t have more injuries overall, but they are more likely to develop knee problems and arthritis.
“If a player wants to add 30 pounds, he will eat more,” Wilson said. “He is not just getting heavier, but is likely to be adding fat. They don’t need more fat in their diets, and sometimes they take in more proteins than their bodies can metabolize. The key is good nutrition.”