Recent surveys have indicated that athletes who supplement their diets with creatine monohydrate suffer an increased risk of adverse side effects, including fatigue, muscle cramping, and even musculoskeletal injury. However, few, if any, of these surveys have involved carefully controlled research, so it has been unclear whether the negative events associated with creatine use are statistically significant. To learn more about the effects of creatine supplementation on the health of athletes, researchers from the Human Performance Laboratory at Arkansas State University recently completed a controlled, 18-week study with 41 Division 1 college baseball players. The research spanned both the pre-season training period and the in-season competitions (‘Creatine Supplementation Does Not Adversely Affect Health Status of Division I Baseball Players,’ Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, Vol. 16(4), p. 7 (Supplement), 2002.).
Twenty-three (56%) of the athletes ingested creatine (20 to 30 grams per day for five to seven days and five grams per day thereafter), while the remaining 18 took none. Creatine-using athletes experienced significantly less fatigue during the first two weeks of the study, when the training was particularly heavy, and the creatine users also displayed reduced arm and shoulder fatigue (important for baseball players) during weeks four and six, compared with non-creatine athletes. In addition, the creatine-supplemented baseball players reported that they were ready to perform at their personal best during weeks four, five, and seven, while non-supplemented athletes failed to report this feeling at any time during the study. Most importantly (for our focus on injury prevention), the creatine supplementation was not linked with a higher risk of muscle cramping or any sort of musculoskeletal injury.