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Studies show IV treatment before a game seldom justified
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SPORTS MEDICINE

Studies show IV treatment before a game seldom justified

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Offensive linemen rarely gain notice — unless called for a crucial penalty or deemed guilty of surrendering too many untimely sacks.

Consequently, New England Patriots right tackle Trent Brown’s previous week was entirely unusual, as he generated headlines twice — and for nothing occurring on the field.

On Thursday, while the Patriots were playing against Atlanta in Mercedes-Benz Stadium, there were 90 members of the Westover High School football team from Albany, Georgia, in the stands, enjoying the game entirely on Brown’s dime. His TB77 Cares foundation paid for the charter bus ride, meals provided during the trip, admission to the game and gift cards to purchase concessions once inside the ballpark.

Why was Brown so generous? It was not because Westover High School’s athletic teams are also the Patriots. Instead, Brown was looking back a decade to when he was still at Westover and, like most students at the school then and now, could only dream of affording a three-hour trip to the big city, never mind the cost of a ticket to an NFL contest.

The display of altruism almost never happened.

On Wednesday, Brown had revealed that his career — and his life — nearly came to an end as the result of a pregame IV gone wrong in November of last year. With the Las Vegas Raiders at the time, he was about to play a game in Cleveland when he received the treatment.

Suddenly, he was being wheeled from the locker room in a hurry and on his way to the hospital with an often-fatal air embolus that had entered his bloodstream.

“I almost died,” said Brown of the incident.

Thereafter, not feeling right for another eight months, he considered retirement.

All of this was reported dutifully by the media in the wake of Brown’s news conference appearance. However, nobody asked why in the world Brown — or any athlete — would need a pregame IV. Intravenous fluids are commonly administered at halftime and postgame in hot weather to counter dehydration.

Even then, though, should they be?

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) is the international organization which monitors and regulates the use of performance enhancing drugs (PEDs) for the International Olympic Committee, among other sports organizations. WADA bans the use of IVs among athletes “except for those legitimately received in the course of hospital admissions, surgical procedures or clinical diagnostic investigations.” An exception is made for medical emergencies, as well.

Brown, even though he was just returning from the COVID-19 list, did not fit any of those descriptions.

Among the reasons WADA bans IVs is the fear of complications, which are common, especially when administered outside a medical facility. Those possible complications include infection, phlebitis, venous thrombosis, fluid overload and electrolyte imbalances. The complication Brown suffered is the most dangerous of all.

“In my mind, there are safer options without complications,” said orthopedic surgeon Dr. Michael Knesek of North Pointe Orthopaedics and Community Care Network. During a year-long sports medicine fellowship in Chicago, that included time with the Bears, he never saw them used pregame and rarely at any other time. “It makes no sense clinically,” he concluded.

The published scientific research agrees. Study after study has demonstrated that oral ingestion of fluids is as good as or better than IV fluids in combating dehydration and heat illness — unless the victim is unconscious or suffering from true heat stroke. Another exception would be a traumatic injury that has caused significant blood loss.

Dr. Douglas Casa the founder of the Korey Stringer Institute at the University of Connecticut has published multiple studies comparing oral ingestion of fluids to administration of IVs. “I don’t see any real benefits,” he said of the latter, outside an emergency situation. Echoing comments by Knesek regarding athletes who would seek a pregame IV, Casa added, “They are telling you they didn’t hydrate adequately pregame on their own.”

Whether or not Brown sought the treatment is unclear. However, even if he did, the responsibility to say no rested squarely with the Raiders. Had WADA’s guidelines — issued for ample good reason — been followed, the near-tragedy would have been averted.

Football recap: Brothers practicing over the summer helped Andrean get to state

Three Region teams competed for state championship berths in their respective classes. Get caught up on the action!

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“In the summer we went out to a field by our house and ran routes so many times. We ran through every route in the route tree and that’s our favorite route."

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"They made a bunch of plays when it mattered. They’re a good football team, battle tested. We just picked a bad time to make mistakes and you can’t make mistakes against a really good team.”

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Merrillville travels to Westfield with a state berth on the line.

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“I’m proud of this team. We’re all hurting right now. We had bigger goals and we were one game away but I’m proud of these guys."

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Michigan City hosts Zionsville at Ames Field with a state berth on the line.

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Stay up-to-date on scores as Andrean, Merrillville and Michigan City play semistate games.

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

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