Sports medicine

JOHN DOHERTY: Athletes drowning in search for Fountain of Youth

2013-02-18T17:30:00Z 2013-02-18T19:01:04Z JOHN DOHERTY: Athletes drowning in search for Fountain of YouthBy John Doherty Times Correspondent
February 18, 2013 5:30 pm  • 

It's been 500 years since Ponce De Leon set off from Puerto Rico in search of the Fountain of Youth. Instead, he found Florida.

Since then, the search for the Fountain of Youth has continued and, oddly enough, in recent years the focus of that search has been in Florida. Not on its beaches or inland countryside but in illicit laboratories, such as the now-shuttered Biogenesis of Miami.

There, former owner Anthony Bosch supplied major league baseball players with performance enhancing drugs (PEDs), apparently high-dose anabolic steroids.

Among his customers were now-disgraced 2012 All-Star MVP Melky Cabrera. He was suspended by Major League Baseball before last season ended as were Bartolo Colon and Yasmani Grandal, two other customers of Bosch.

Several of Bosch's other clients, as revealed by ESPN last week, have not been suspended — yet. Alex Rodriguez of the Yankees and Ryan Braun of the Brewers have been disciplined in the last year, but they have been implicated in illegal PED use in the past.

Their current denials notwithstanding, it is hard to imagine Braun and Rodriguez would be in Bosch's financial records for any reason other than why Cabrera, Colon, and Grandal were.

Why professional athletes with so much to lose and so little to gain involve themselves with illegal PEDs supplied by characters like Bosch is beyond me. Steroids offer short-term gains for longer-term and permanent problems. Yes, you get bigger, faster, stronger. However, you also risk muscle and tendon tears and later-in-life liver and heart problems.

Unfortunately, not all harmful PEDs are illegal and their suppliers are often thought of as legitimate. Witness the recent allegations and revelations from the NFL, MLB, and college football concerning the powerful anti-inflammatory drug Toradol.

When it comes to pain and inflammation, Toradol works but at an extraordinary risk to the heart, kidneys, and gastrointestinal tract.

In December, a dozen ex-NFL players sued the league alleging kidney damage from Toradol overuse. In January, former USC football player Armond Armstead filed suit against the school claiming its frequent use of the drug on him triggered a heart attack.

Earlier this month, Red Sox pitcher Clay Buchholz suggested his hospitalization for esophageal bleeding last season was caused by Toradol. Also, former Red Sox pitchers Jonathon Papelbon, now with the Phillies, and Curt Schilling, now retired, acknowledged they routinely received injections from team personnel.

Papelbon wasn't aware of any potential dangers until the Phillies told him Toradol was banned by the team. Schilling didn't point the finger at the Red Sox alone. He said he received an injection prior to every start for the last 10 years of his career, thereby implicating the Diamondbacks, as well.

The Red Sox say they will continue to use Toradol but are reviewing their policy on its use. Meanwhile, the NFL prohibited the injected form of the drug at the beginning of the 2012 season, allowing only the pill form and with much stricter oversight.

My thoughts are along the same lines as the Phillies'. The drug is too dangerous for routine use, and anybody injured so badly that he needs it shouldn't be playing.

John Doherty is a certified athletic trainer and licensed physical therapist. This column reflects solely his opinion. Reach him at Follow him on Twitter @JDohertyATCPT.

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