Bigger, faster, stronger … but are athletes safer?

A former teammate of the late New Zealand rugby legend, Jonah Lomu, has recently claimed that the supplement creatine could have been responsible for Lomu’s health problems.

  Joeli Vidiri played on the opposite wing to Lomu for the Auckland Blues in the 1990s and won two caps for the All Blacks. He also suffered the same rare kidney condition as his fellow winger.

  The claim comes amid recent concerns that rugby players are becoming bigger and faster which in turn has led to a spotlight being thrown on concussion in the game.

  This is not a new problem, as one look at Will Smith’s recent movie, aptly named ‘Concussion’ will show. The NFL has being dealing with oversized athletes causing mini car crashes for years now. I believe it’s all down to the added pressure to perform.

  The worrying aspect about this is the fact that athletes are starting to use various supplements at a younger age. I’ve witnessed minor players taking protein shakes in locker areas of gyms as part of the training ritual.

  Rugby, NFL and GAA players can’t be blamed for wanting to be in peak condition. The pressure to be big and fast enough means that extra protein, amino acids and even creatine is required. This along with tougher training programmes leads to more muscle mass and increased speed over short distances, which results in higher velocity and bigger hits.

  Rugby players are freakishly big much like their NFL cousins and one look at the GAA will tell you that footballers are not getting any smaller either. The Dublin team is a perfect example of a team that’s added speed and brawn over the last few years. There’s nothing wrong with players developing physique, but the worry is that increased impact injuries will be the result.

  There are many questions as yet unanswered such as how big will be big enough for these physical sports? And how will it affect performance and the way these sports are played and governed?

  Jonah Lomu’s former teammate raises another question. What exactly are young athletes consuming and how will it affect them long term?