NEW YORK(CBSNewYork) — Deer antlers are not just for mounting on your wall anymore.
Some people claim that deer antler spray is a performance enhancing supplement that can promote healing and increase strength.
Deer antler velvet was a dietary supplement that most people had never heard of until Baltimore Ravens’ All-Pro Linebacker Ray Lewis was accused of using it, CBS 2’s Dr. Max Gomez explained.
It has been used in Chinese medicine for a millennia and now a surprising number of athletes are turning to it for enhanced performance.
The premise is simple; a deer’s antlers grow fast, more than an inch a day, humans who use the product hope to harness those regenerative qualities.
“I dove for a ball and tore my rotator cuff 90 percent, all the way through,” baseball player Adam Greenberg said.
Following his injury, Greenberg turned to ground up deer antler extract at the suggestion of one of his doctors.
“Within the first couple days I knew there was something positive going on. Dr. Kwok called me and said, ‘how were you playing?’ and I said, ‘what do you mean?’ he said, ‘You don’t have a rotator cuff. It’s basically non-existent,'” Greenberg said.
Intrigued by Greenberg’s story, Dr. Patrick Kwok, an orthopedic surgeon, decided to start testing the product on his own. He found no adverse effects in 100 athletes who were taking it.
Dr. Kwok did report a number of apparent benefits in athletes who used the supplement.
“Increased energy, decreased joint pain and muscle aches,” he said.
Deer antler velvet is sold in the United States as liquid drops, capsules, and as a spray.
The cost ranges from $30 a bottle to a couple hundred dollars depending on the product and the strength. Since it is sold as a supplement, and not a medicine companies do not have to prove any benefits, and the FDA can’t regulate it unless there are reports of significant harm from the product.
None of the scientific studies that CBS 2 found showed a convincing benefit, and only one showed a possible positive effect.
“The biggest effect happened to turn in on the aerobic conditioning side,” study author, Craig Broder, said, “I had some really positive findings, but it’s so small.”
Endocrinologist, Dr. Alan Rogol said that the supplement won’t kill you, but offered some advice.
“I would say don’t take it. That would be easy,” he said.
Some deer antler proponents say the product works because it contains a type of growth factor which would make it illegal in most sports leagues.
Others said that it contains cartilage building blocks.
Most experts said that the real reason that it works is because athletes think it will work, the placebo effect.
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