Creatine has been shown to enhance performance in sports that require short bursts of energy (including ice hockey, sprinting, soccer, weight lifting). The question arises: Is creatine harmful? According to Eric Rawson, PhD of Bloomsburg University in PA and speaker at the American College of Sports Medicine’s Annual Meeting (June 1-4, 2011, Denver) creatine is safe. Although critics have tried to implicate creatine in athletic events that resulted in death, other factors were involved, such as excessive exercise in extreme heat.
The NCAA and other sports organizations discourage the use of creatine in teenage athletes. Teens who take creatine while their bodies are growing will never know how well they could have performed with simply a good sports diet and hard work. The question arises: Will athletes who take creatine be enticed to try other ergogenic aids, such as harmful and illegal steroids? The answer is unknown.
Creatine might be helpful for athletes who suffer a concussion. Research with animals suggests taking creatine pre-concussion enhances recovery. Granted, few athletes know when they will get a concussion, but anecdotes tell us that hockey players who routinely take creatine (and have higher brain creatine status than athletes who do not take creatine) report enhanced recovery. In certain medical situations (such as muscular dystrophy, Parkinson’s disease), creatine can also have a health-protective role. If you have had a concussion or two, you might want to ask your doctor if taking creatine might be a wise path to follow.
On a daily basis, the brain uses creatine to help us think and process. (Thinking requires quick energy, and creatine enhances that metabolic pathway.) Taking creatine supplements can increase brain creatine by 4 to 9%.
When the brain is tired, as happens with sleep-deprivation, creatine may be able to enhance brain function. For example, sleep deprived rugby players who took creatine improved their accuracy when throwing a ball (compared to those who did not take creatine). The effect was similar to if they had taken caffeine, another alertness-heightener.
Nancy Clark and Gloria Averbuch
Authors, Food Guide for Soccer: Tips and Recieps from the Pros