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Sports Injury Prevention

Steroid Use

The Risks of Steroid Use

Some athletes choose to use steroids to try to improve their performance.   While anabolic steroids do increase muscle size and can improve athletic performance in some ways, they are both dangerous to your health and banned by sports organizations.


Steroids used for sports performance are called “anabolic-androgenic” steroids (AAS). These are man-made products that have both anabolic (muscle building) and androgenic (increased male sex characteristics) effects.  Other kinds of steroids (eg. corticosteroids) may be medicines used to treat certain kinds of illnesses. These are not the steroids described here.
Anabolic steroids are taken by mouth, injected into the muscles, or absorbed into the skin from creams or gels.  No matter how they are taken, these man-made hormones can have unwanted or dangerous effects. 

Here Are Just Some of the Reasons to Avoid Using Steroids:

  • Use of anabolic steroids by young men may:
    • Shrink testicles
    • Cause hair to fall out
    • Cause acne
    • Increase breast size
  • Use of anabolic steroids by young women may:
    • Cause facial hair
    • Deepen the voice
    • Cause irregular periods
  • Anabolic steroids can slow down growth.  If you take steroids before your final growth spurt, steroids can keep you from reaching your expected height.
  • Anabolic steroids may weaken your tendons, which connect muscles to bones. Steroids can lead to tendon injury or complete tear.
  • Anabolic steroid use can damage many organs, including the liver, kidneys, and heart. Steroids can cause heart attacks, high blood pressure, and stroke.
  • Anabolic steroids can cause increased aggression, mood swings, and anger (“roid rage”). This can destroy relationships with loved ones and increase your chance of being arrested for violent behavior.
  • Anabolic steroid use can lead to addiction and is an expensive habit.   
  • It can be very difficult to stop abusing steroids due to withdrawal symptoms such as depression.  Depression can lead to suicide attempts.

The Bottom Line

Steroids can improve muscle strength and some athletic performance.  Unfortunately, use of these drugs is not worth the risks.  Because anabolic steroids are banned by sports organizations, you will be disqualified from competing if you are ever caught using these drugs.   

More Information

Q: What is the difference between anabolic steroids and corticosteroids?

Anabolic steroids are synthetic hormones used to increase muscle mass. Corticosteroids are medicines designed to treat certain medical conditions.

Q: How can you tell if someone is taking steroids?

Lab tests can show steroid use. 

Q: Do steroids work?

Yes.  Anabolic steroids increase muscle strength and can improve athletic performance. 

Q: If steroids can improve performance, why not take them?

There are many risks of anabolic steroids, such as:
  • increased acne
  • testicular shrinkage
  • baldness
  • stunted growth
  • tendon injury
  • heart problems
  • high blood pressure
  • strokes
  • psychological problems
  • aggressive behavior
Steroid use is banned by sports organizations. If you are caught using them, you will be disqualified.

Questions to ask your doctor:

  • What are the risks of taking anabolic steroids?
  • What are the risks of stopping the use of anabolic steroids?
  • What are safe ways to improve muscle strength and athletic performance?