(Image Source: Wikimedia Commons)
BY SCOTT MALONE
ANCHOR CHRISTIAN BRYANT
As the kickoff countdown to Super Bowl Sunday continues to wind down, there’s one story that won’t go away: what in the world is deer antler spray? Sports Illustrated’s exclusive report this week points fingers at several notable athletes for taking the substance.
Like Baltimore Ravens star linebacker Ray Lewis, who Sports Illustrated claims took the substance to speed up his recovery from a torn tricep muscle. (Via Wikimedia Commons
Several members of the 2011 national championship Alabama Crimson Tide allegedly took the substance before their title bout against LSU. (Via Wikimedia Commons
And professional golfer Vijay Singh admitted to using deer antler spray shortly after the story broke. (Via Wikimedia Commons
According to the manufacturer, the spray is made by grinding up deer antlers and extracting the nutrients — it’s a recipe common in traditional Chinese medicine. (Via Wikimedia Commons
It is seen as a possible steroid alternative because it includes something described as an insulin-like growth factor, or IGF-1, which is said to regulate human growth hormones in the body. It is currently banned by the NFL, NCAA and the PGA Tour.
According to CNBC
’s Darren Rovell, one of the reasons deer antler spray is growing on athletes is because IGF-1 can’t be detected in a urine test - only a blood test will reveal its presence, and in a study done by U.S. scientists...
“The placebo group didn’t show any difference in bench or squat tests, [but] those given deer antler velvet saw an increase of 4 percent on the bench press and 10.1 percent on the squat test compared to the placebo group … [and] there was a significant improvement in aerobic capacity.”
A New York-based orthopedic surgeon told National Geographic
that a recent study found IGF-1 supplements could potentially treat cartilage damage in joints due to repetitive trauma - lending credibility to the idea that Lewis used it to heal his torn triceps.
But several researchers are wondering just how much weight those studies actually hold.
Researchers for the New Zealand Medical Journal
say “Claims made for velvet antler supplements do not appear to be based upon rigorous research from human trials, although for osteoarthritis the findings may have some promise.”
And the Baltimore Sun
spoke with a professor at John’s Hopkins University who specializes in studying growth hormones. He’s even more skeptical, saying “If there were [a way to deliver IGF-1 orally], a lot of people would be happy that they don’t need to get shots anymore. It’s just simply not possible for it to come from a spray.”
The company gaining fame from the deer antler hype is SWATS - short for Sports With Alternatives to Steroids - which also sells other products, like negatively charged water, wrist magnets and special underwear that has been exposed to radio waves.