Anterior crucial Ligament Injury occurs when excessive force is applied on the lateral side of the knee during contact sports. It can also occur from a fall that bends the knee towards the medial side while the feet are pressed to the ground which is a common sports injury. When an athlete has an injury to the ACL, recovery can be difficult and incomplete. Often athletes find themselves to be well below their previous strength levels putting an early stop to their career. Nevertheless, there may still be hope for these athletes as a new study finds growth hormone treatment may prevent muscle atrophy and restore vigor.
With advanced orthopedic medicine, ACLs can be repaired by minimally invasive surgeries. Although this method is effective in healing the ACL, muscle atrophy can be debilitating for athletes. Muscle atrophy can prevent a return to previous competitive levels and furthermore increase the risk of re-injury.
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Growth Hormone is important for muscle growth and maintaining bone mineral density in adults. It plays a significant role in bone and muscle regeneration after injury. But in the world of athletes, HGH is a contraband doping substance in professional sports. In healthy athletes that have been found to be using HGH to supplement their career with increased muscle mass, it is considered as doping as it gives these athletes an unfair advantage over their competitors. However, it may have untapped potential in helping heal athletes with ligament tears recover at levels of their previous vigor by preventing loss of strength in muscles supported by the injured ligaments.
Despite surgery and rehabilitation, most ACL injuries result in a decline in muscle strength by up to 40% in comparison to the pre-injury muscle strength.
Study on HGH therapy after surgical repair 0f ACL injury
Researchers examined 19 male athletes between the ages of 18 to 35 who had suffered from ACL tears and who had plans to undergo ACL reconstruction surgery. On a random basis, the participants were given HGH or placebo injections twice a day for a total duration of six weeks. The injections were started one week prior to their minimally invasive ACL reconstructive surgery.
The study reported definite positive effects on knee muscle strength after measuring the muscle volume, strength scores, patient-reported outcome, and serum biomarkers.
“While HGH did not appear to affect muscle volume or our patient-reported outcome scores, we found a 29% higher knee extension strength in our patients that had performed the HGH injections compared to those in the placebo group,” says Bedi, one of the researchers involved in the study.
The patients who had received HGH therapy were found to have a two-fold increase in IGF-1, a mediator protein important for muscle and bone regeneration.
What does this mean for HGH’s future in professional sports?
Bedi and Mendias are hopeful that the results of their study will provide enough incentive to reevaluate the ban on HGH by the World Anti-Doping Agency and sports agencies. Even if the ban is not lifted on healthy athletes, its use on injured athletes to regain muscle strength should be worth reconsidering.