Potion’s power not in athletics
That’s an advertising jingle composed to promote Redline, one of a myriad of so-called “energy drinks” often marketed to both overweight couch potatoes and highly-motivated athletes.
Redline, however, promises so much more.
“This freaky scientific breakthrough is the first physique-transforming matrix to coax your body to burn fat through the ‘shivering response,'” claims an advertisement for the drink, a product of Southern California-based VPX Sports. “… when you shiver, your body releases a large amount of stored body fat in an attempt to bring body temperature back to normal.
“However the power of Redline does not stop there, as its radical combination of novel ingredients will also have you sweating up a thermogenic storm, and thus burning fat through yet another unique mechanism.”
Though it sounds scary to me, certainly there are folks out there so badly wanting to lose weight that they’re willing to give such a potion a try.
But how does it end up in the locker room of a high school football team? And why would two senior captains of Bear River’s varsity squad swig such stuff within hours of a Friday night kickoff?
You tell me.
“When it comes to energy, Redline will ‘amp’ you to the max within minutes,” continues the advertisement, “ready to tear apart the weights and wear out the treadmill like a tiger released from its cage! … Get ripped, get jacked … reach for the Red!”
And, of course, the label on each bottle shouts “The Ultimate Energy Rush.”
How could this stuff not end up in a locker room full of teenagers Ð 15-18 year olds so badly wanting to win, to make their parents proud, to catch the eye of that cute co-ed, to earn that athletic scholarship or to simply chase their own dreams Ð seeking an edge, any edge, to get them over the top?
Reaping such rewards from Redline – and its brethren of lightning bolts in a bottle – seemed only to make sense to Axel Wadman, a football and basketball standout at Bear River, shortly before his Bruins kicked off against Yuba City on Sept. 15.
After all, he drank some just a week earlier in Bear River’s season-opening 35-0 win over Center. And, in case you didn’t know, the stuff is legal Ð available to any 18-year-old at the local supplement store.
So Wadman felt “the freak” when he drank the drink Ð one juiced with 280 milligrams of caffeine and claims to be 350 percent more potent than the popular “Red Bull.” For some perspective, the cup of coffee in front of me is said to carry about 80 milligrams of caffeine.
“I thought it would give me a little more energy,” Wadman said. “Some others guys were doing it and I didn’t really think about it much.”
It wasn’t long until Wadman was feeling the effects.
But along with the rush came a “really bad headache and my heart was going a million miles an hour,” said Wadman. ” It felt like I was having a heart attack. It was really scary.”
And then came kickoff.
Despite the symptoms he experienced during stretching and warm-ups, Wadman was his typical self, making plays on both offense and defense through the first half of play, as Bear River did battle with a big Yuba City squad.
In the third quarter, after the halftime intermission, things changed.
First it was quarterback C.J. Crausby, who experienced such excruciating pain in his lower legs that he dropped to his back short of the sideline pleading for trainers to stretch out his cramping calves.
That was likely, said Bruin co-head coach Scott Savoie, because he also drank the drink. Crausby tried to return to action, but both he and Wadman found it tough to perform.
At one point, Wadman was slow getting up from a play and reached for his lower back with both hands. His muscles were twitching, cramping, seizing into painful spasms. After being helped from the field and given attention by the training staff, Wadman was essentially left standing on the sideline for the rest of the game.
“At the time I felt like I could have gone back in the game,” said Wadman, who all but got down on bended knee to beg co-head coach Scott Savoie to get him back on the field. “Now that I think about it, it was probably best that he kept me out.
“I don’t know what would have happened.”
Neither does Savoie, especially after hearing Wadman’s worries while riding in the back of an ambulance on the way to the hospital following the game.
Before he got to the locker room, after his team had lost 24-7, Wadman seemed to be in agony.
“Every part of my body,” Wadman said, “started cramping – in my groin, under my shoulder and in my arm pit. I couldn’t even walk.
“When I was in the locker room, both of my legs, calves and hamstrings, just seized and I hit the deck.”
Longtime Bruin junior varsity coach Duane Zauner saw Wadman on the floor and rushed to his side.
“I started cramping really bad in my back and all over my body,” Wadman said. “Coach Zauner was there with me, but I was panicking and hyperventilating. My body became really cold and I started shivering and shaking.”
Coaches helped Wadman to a warm shower, hoping to help shake the shivers from their senior.
“It was weird,” said Savoie. “I know Axel and I knew he wouldn’t be taking drugs. So knowing that wouldn’t be the case, in some ways I thought it looked like heat exhaustion. But it was almost the opposite, because it was cold out that night.”
Soon thereafter, Savoie was riding shotgun to Wadman’s stretcher.
“I was really scared,” Wadman said. “I just didn’t know what was really going on. I didn’t know what was going to happen. I wasn’t quite thinking that I was going to die, but I think the thought crossed my mind.”
By very early Saturday morning, both Crausby and Wadman were doing fine. According to Savoie, the cause of the severe cramping was likely due to dehydrating effects of the high amounts of caffeine in the drink. And, as far as the shivering, Redline did promise consumers would “feel the freeze.”
“I definitely wish I hadn’t done that,” said Wadman, who came back to play the next week at Woodcreek and scored his first career touchdown last Friday night at Marysville, a 15-yard pass from Crausby. “We were down by a touchdown in the third quarter (to Yuba City) and both C.J. and I go out. Then it’s tough to get momentum going.
“We’re the captains on both sides of the ball, so the guys don’t have the leaders they’re used to seeing out there.”
But perhaps those leaders who were left standing on the sideline can still help those teammates – and many others – learn a lesson, even by providing an example not to follow.
“It scared the crap out of me,” Savoie said. “I’m not mad at the kids for doing it. They’re going to believe that if you can buy it in a store then it’s OK. But it’s not.
“We preach and denounce the steroid thing. We talk about eating right. We talk about a lot of things like that. But we hadn’t discussed energy drinks, because we didn’t see it as an issue.
“Now we do.”
In addition to sharing his experiences with fellow coaches, Savoie and Bear River Athletics Director Jack McCrory encouraged Wadman to share his nightmare of a Friday night with us in hopes that his prep playing peers won’t follow his lead – this time.
“As long as people don’t make the same mistake,” said Wadman. “I know I made a mistake doing it.
“I just want to let them know what it can do to them.”
Brian Hamilton is sports editor at The Union. His column is published Saturdays. He can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 477-4240.
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