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Strong man recovering with growth hormones

Elite level athletes are recovering from serious injuries at unbelievable speeds, but how? At University of Copenhagen in the Journal of Physiology, a human study was published by Sport Scientists that gives us the probable answer: Growth Hormones.

In 2006 Coach Sal Marinello wrote a column in the Healthy Skeptic [The Healthy Skeptic Jul 25, 2006] in response to an article in Muscle & Fitness about Terrell Owens, American football wide receiver. Owens shed light on the fact that he had been given supplements that boosted the recovery time of his joints. Had Owens been taking growth hormone or IGF-1?

The rumors of athletes using substances to speed up recovery time from injuries have been around in the world of sports for many years.

The Danes gave 10 healthy men aged 30 a hormone injection daily for 14 weeks. They men supplemented Norditropin from the Novo Nordisk Factory. During the first week daily injections of 33.3 micrograms of growth hormone per kg of bodyweight were given. On the second week it was increased to daily doses at 50 micrograms per kg of bodyweight.

Researchers extracted samples of knee joint and quadriceps muscle attachments before and after the course of growth hormone. On one occasion this was done 24 hours after that the men had trained their legs, doing a set of leg extensions; on the other occasion it was done after the men had done no exercise.

The supplementation of GH injections increased production of collagen in the knee joint.

Growth hormone had no effect on the protein fibres responsible for muscle contraction [myofibrillar protein]. But the growth hormone did stimulate the production of muscle collagen. We can conclude from this that GH itself doesn’t make muscles stronger, but it doesn’t create an environment for which muscles are able to grow stronger.

So it may well be the case that torn muscles and damaged muscle attachments heal more quickly if growth hormone is administered, the Danes suggest. It’s not a completely new idea. There are a couple of animal studies in which growth hormone has been shown to boost recovery of damaged cartilage.

[BMC Physiol. 2007 Mar 26; 7:2.] [J Orthop Res. 2002 Sep; 20(5): 910-9.] and there are a couple of human studies that also point in the same direction. Spanish doctors for example have had some success in treating athletes’ torn Achilles tendons with a cocktail of growth factors, including IGF-1. [Am J Sports Med. 2007 Feb;35(2):245-51.]

“In this study, just 14 days of rhGH supplementation in healthy individuals increased collagen synthesis by up to 6-fold without causing any side effects”, the Danes write. “An increase of this magnitude holds clinical perspectives in relation to traumatic musculoskeletal injuries, where the collagen matrix inevitably is damaged.”

J Physiol. 2010 Jan 15;588(Pt 2):341-51.