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The Business of Youth Sports Drinks

Mark Hyman is a sports journalist with special interests in the business of sports, sports and law and sports for children. He is the author of Until It Hurts: America's Obsession with Youth Sports and How It Harms Our Kids, and is currently writing a book about the business of youth sports. He blogs at, where this post originally appeared.

2066855301_66fe80fdb7_m If your child's pediatrician diagnosed a contagious bug and prescribed medication, what would you do? Same as most parents, no doubt. Get the medicine. Give it to your kid. When a child's health is at stake, we tend to follow doctor's orders.

In May, the American Academy of Pediatrics issued a widely publicized clinical report regarding kids and sports drinks. The AAP recommended cutting back on such drinks for kid athletes. In so many words, the kids' doctors group found them to be unnecessary at best, and at times even harmful.

Dr. Holly Benjamin of the AAP Council on Sports Medicine and Fitness noted: “For most children engaging in routine physical activity, plain water is best, Sports drinks contain extra calories that children don’t need, and could contribute to obesity and tooth decay."

It's been three weeks since the AAP issued that statement. How many of us have heeded this simple advice? Anyone?

The sport-drink industry isn't exactly urging us to shut the spigot. Gatorade, for one, spends tens of millions each year in sports marketing. According to the Sports Business Journal, the four major sports leagues have deals with Gatorade as do a majority of teams in those leagues. Dozens of star players are paid to pitch the sports drink including Peyton and Eli Manning, Dwayne Wade, Kevin Garnett and Landon Donovan. Seventy-four college programs count Gatorade as a sponsor as do 13 college conferences and 11 bowl games.

Hyman Oh, and Gatorade is a highly visible sponsor of high school sports. Next spring, check out the ESPN Rise National High School Invitational Presented by Gatorade. I did last March. In a gym in suburban D.C., it was me, about 700 fans and about 700 Gatorade logos.

Maybe I'm off base and water is about to make a comeback as the kids' thirst quencher of choice. That would please your kid's doctor. It might not make the Manning brothers happy.

Sports drink photo by toniwbusch on Flickr. Used under Creative Commons.