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H.G.H.'s Conundrum: Does Costly Treatment Enhance Performance?

The New York Times—New York, NY—December 19, 2009

While human growth hormone has a remarkable ability to generate controversy, exactly what it does for athletes, both good and bad, is as much of a mystery today as when it first found favor as a performance booster during the 1990s.

Even platelet therapy, widely practiced on injured tissue, is an unproven treatment marked by uncertainties, it is however legal and not banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency.

To create platelet-rich plasma, a small amount of the patient’s blood is put in a centrifuge to separate its red blood cells from the platelets that release proteins and other particles involved in healing. A small amount of the substance is then injected into the damaged area. The belief is that the high concentration of platelets — 3 to 10 times that of normal blood — prompts the growth of new soft-tissue or bone cells.

Scott A. Rodeo, an orthopedic surgeon at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York and a former United States Olympic Team physician, said that when it comes to platelet therapy "the underlying rationale makes sense but there’s very little underlying research."

Rodeo, who is also a physician for the New York Giants, said that Galea was far from unique in providing the treatment in North America.

"If you want to do P.R.P. today there are many places to do it, although it may have been different two years ago," he said. "But sometimes in sports, a name gets out and gets recycled among athletes."

Read the full story at nytimes.com.


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