Background: The aim of this international study was to investigate the prevalence of the use of sports supplements among young athletes, as well as their knowledge and attitudes towards sports supplementation.
Methods: Organized survey study testing the level of knowledge, attitudes, beliefs and practices concerning the use of sports supplements was administered to 348 athletes, 15-18 year olds from 4 countries competing in 18 sports at the international level.
Results: The prevalence rate of the intake of sports supplements was 82.2%, with the protein supplements being predominant (54.5%). Coaches were identified as the primary source of information regarding supplementation (41.4%). The enhancement of athletic performance (35.4%) was the major motivation for the supplements intake. The majority of athletes (72.1%) were aware of associated health risks. The young athletes possess varying levels of knowledge regarding their own supplementation. The obtained data about the level of knowledge were statistically analyzed using the correspondence analysis. Less than 40% of athletes had the knowledge about the proper and intended use of protein, creatine, amino acids, beta alanine and glutamine, while they had greater understanding about vitamins and minerals, sports drinks and caffeine. The athletes in developed countries had greater access and utilization of professional resources such as dieticians. Young athletes are still unfamiliar with WADA regulations (55.5%), and the misuse of sports supplements represents an ethical dilemma for some.
Conclusion: These findings indicate the necessity of a comprehensive education of all team members about sports supplements and careful supervision of the athletic development of young athletes.
Keywords: Correspondence analysis; Ethics in sports; Survey analysis; Test of knowledge.