One Irish youth cyclist was hospitalised and another needed medical attention after they both suffered adverse reactions to caffeine supplements. The incidents took place on consecutive days and Cycling Ireland has been moved to issue a health warning about the dangers of such products for young riders.
The incidents involved U14 and U16 riders and while both made full recoveries, an anonymous witness told the Irish Examiner that it had been “very scary” to see. They described laboured breathing and the cyclists wobbling on their bikes.
“Many parents had not realised the dangers of these for young cyclists. They are commonly used by kids today. Everyone is 100 per cent fine now but it was very scary seeing what I’ve seen.”
While caffeine is not a banned substance, energy gels and other supplements containing caffeine will often carry warnings that they are unsuitable for riders under the age of 16.
A statement on the Cycling Ireland website said that caffeine supplements should not be used by riders under the age of 18, and added that they also shouldn’t be included as part of any prize for youth or junior cyclists by race promoters.
“Following recent serious incidents Cycling Ireland would like to highlight the risks of inappropriate consumption of caffeinated substances by youth and junior cyclists.
“Caffeine is widely used by the majority of the adult population in various foods and drinks, along with being available in a wide range of sports gels, drinks, powders and in over the counter tablets or capsules.
“While it can be effective in enhancing sports performance in trained athletes at moderate doses, ‘Caffeine Supplementation should not be used as an ergogenic aid in athletes under the age of 18’ according to the Institute of Sport.
“While there are a range of performance benefits for adult athletes across many sports in caffeine consumption, there are very serious concerns that are particularly relevant in relation to younger athletes, such as an increased heart rate, an alteration of fine motor control and over-arousal which can have a negative impact on race preparation, recovery and sleep.”