Human growth hormone (HGH) has had a bad rap for decades now, especially within sports organizations. The World Anti-Doping Association has banned its use in sports, including the National Basketball Association (NBA). Mark Cuban (pictured), the owner of the Dallas Mavericks, disagrees with this decision.
He believes that the use of HGH can have a very beneficial impact on injured athletes. His position is not that HGH should be used for performance enhancement or used continuously and abused, but that it shows promise in healing an athlete's injury safely and quicker than conventional healing methods.
He recently told ESPN, “The reason [HGH] was barred was because the [World Anti-Doping Agency] … they banned it. There was really no research or complete logic for doing it.”
Cuban has been interested in the potential benefits and uses of HGH for many years and so much so that he decided to fund a study performed by researchers at the University of Michigan looking at HGH and its role in injury recovery.
Mark Cuban Funds University of Michigan HGH Study
This new study was published in The American Journal of Sports Medicine and focused on injuries of the ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) which is an important ligament that supports the knee. A torn ACL is one of the worst diagnoses for an athlete to hear as even walking is barely possible (let alone any in-and-out dribbles or spin moves!) and the injury typically requires surgery.
Even after surgery, many athlete's performances never quite reach where it used to be which can be devastating. It seems that even though the ligament is reconstructed after surgery, residual atrophy still occurs in the muscle.
Researchers at the University of Michigan wanted to see if the use of HGH in patients would combat this muscle atrophy. Senior author of the study, Asheesh Bedi, M.D., states, “Residual atrophy can slow or limit the safe return to the prior level of competition, and contribute to the risk of re-injury and even arthritis.”
Lead author, Christopher Mendias, Ph.D., ATC, also says, “Even after rehabilitation, many patients have muscles that are 30 to 40% weaker when they return to sports compared to their pre-surgery strength.”
That study was comprised of 19 male athletes, between the ages of 18 to 35, who had torn their ACL and were scheduled for reconstruction surgery. The subjects were randomly assigned self-injections of human growth hormone or a placebo to be injected over a six-week-period twice-a-day. The injections were started one week before their surgery date.
The results of the study were that the HGH injections did have a positive effect on the strength and volume of the knee muscles as well as on the amount of pain and adverse symptoms experienced by the subject. For example, the researchers found a 29% higher knee extension strength in the HGH group. Blood samples were also taken to look at various protein and enzyme concentrations over the course of treatment.
The HGH group had a 2.1-fold increase in insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1) blood levels and a 36% lower level of matrix metalloproteinase-3 (MMP-3). IGF-1 is a protein that aids in building muscle and MMP-3 is an enzyme that aids in breaking down muscles, specifically breaking down the proteins that are used to build muscles.
The Need for Better Injury Recovery Methods
As stated previously, a torn ACL can be a death sentence for an athlete's career, in addition to other injuries, depending on the sport. Especially now, in light of the effect of COVID-19 on professional sports teams, their prolonged hiatus from playing will mean increased injuries once allowed to play again.
For example, the NBA has been on hiatus for over two months with a date of July 31st as the target date for returning to the game. Two months off is a long time to go without training or playing in any game! It would be very beneficial to these athletes if they are able to either prevent such injuries or recover faster and be back up to speed once healed.
Again, the idea of using HGH injections for sports injury healing does not involve long-term continuous use – this would be perceived as abuse by the WADA for performance enhancement. Mendias also supports this view: “Treatment occurs during a time when athletes are not playing due to their injuries.
The goal is to prevent muscle weakness, not make athletes stronger than they were before their injuries. Any small performance-enhancing effects of human growth hormone seem to wear off quickly after stopping the medication, and does not offer a competitive advantage.”
Mark Cuban's Future Hopes for HGH
Mark Cuban has very high hopes for the use of HGH as an aid in injury recovery. He is even willing to fund more studies to prove his beliefs, which, based off of the latest study, look promising: “[…] comparing athletes vs. a placebo, there was a significant improvement in their recovery time and getting back to full strength.”
Cuban hopes that the NBA, the Olympics and other sports leagues will take a look at these results and be interested in further studies.
He believes that HGH should not be banned from all uses and can potentially be used for some good in the NBA and other sports organizations – performance enhancement and recreational use excluded. Cuban argues, “It's time to recognize that HGH can positively impact injury recovery.
I funded this study so that athletes can get back to full strength and doing what they love.”
Continue following our blog for the latest news on human growth hormone and other HRT treatment methods!
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