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Mark Cuban asks: Should NBA allow injured players to use HGH if it speeds recovery?

Nov 25, 2013, 11:04 AM EDT

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Mark Cuban is a guy who wants data. He expects studies and information to help provide answers. It’s how he runs all his businesses, including the Dallas Mavericks.

But when it comes to potentially using human growth hormone (HGH) — a controversial substance banned by the NBA — to help injured players recover more quickly, there isn’t any data.

In the wake of a weekend where All-Stars Derrick Rose, Andre Iguodala and Marc Gasol went out with injuries — Rose’s likely keeping him out the rest of the season — the topic of if this could help came up again.

Mavericks’ owner Mark Cuban brought up the idea of looking at this at last owners’ meeting. Cuban told Sam Amick of the USA Today he’d like to see more information on the topic.

“The issue isn’t whether I think it should be used,” Cuban told USA TODAY Sports via e-mail. “The issue is that it has not been approved for such use. And one of the reasons it hasn’t been approved is that there have not been studies done to prove the benefits of prescribing HGH for athletic rehabilitation or any injury rehabilitation that I’m aware of. The product has such a huge (public) stigma that no one wants to be associated with it….

“I believe that professional sports leagues should work together and fund studies to determine the efficacy of HGH for rehabbing an injury,” Cuban told USA TODAY Sports. “Working together could lead us from the path of demonizing HGH and even testosterone towards a complete understanding. It could allow us to make a data based decision rather than the emotional decision we are currently making. And if it can help athletes recover more quickly, maybe we can extend careers and have healthier happier players and fans.”

HGH is very controversial, and in Major League Baseball it remains at the heart of lengthy player bans and the PED controversy that has tainted that sport. The NBA has not had high profile PED cases, but it doesn’t test for HGH right now (that is something the league and players’ union have yet to come to an agreement on, it requires blood tests). To think that NBA players would not use HGH designer PEDs when tens of millions of dollars in contracts are on the line is naïve.

However, should the NBA consider allowing it in specific circumstances is another question. The FDA only allows the use of HGH for a few specific treatments, primarily children whose growth is stunted.

There are difficult ethical questions here, something Amick gets into.

The NBA also is sensitive to the ethical part of the discussion, as the idea that some players would return from injury sooner than others because they were willing to take a drug that may have adverse side effects raises serious concerns about maintaining a level playing field. The possible side effects, according to the FDA, include an increased risk of cancer, nerve pain and elevated cholesterol and glucose levels. If anything, the NBA is moving closer to cracking down on HGH use of any kind.

It’s hard to see a scenario where the NBA switches course and starts to allow HGH use in any specific circumstance. Still, Cuban at least wants the discussion on the table — and he wants some information on whether it would even work for injury recovery.

  1. mimaiheatdynasty - Nov 25, 2013 at 11:07 AM

    This is a very controversial subject. I have to say tho, I’ve never seen as many injuries in the league as the last couple of seasons. Shorten the season maybe?

    • kinggw - Nov 25, 2013 at 11:23 AM

      We’re in the first month of the season, how exactly would shortening the season curb the injuries suffered by Rose, Iggy or Gasol? Injuries are an unfortunate part of sports.

      • moseskkim - Nov 25, 2013 at 11:28 AM

        Lol shorten the season to 13 games so we didn’t have those 3 injuries? The 82 game season is fine. Injuries are a part of sports.

    • cofran2004 - Nov 25, 2013 at 11:27 AM

      There aren’t more injuries, they’re just higher profile injuries. Just the luck of the draw.

    • belleby123 - Nov 26, 2013 at 3:32 PM

      Cuban is putting the cart before the horse. I think there are more injuries now because there is less substance abuse. Same thing is happening in football. The more physically demanding a sport is on the body the more injuries there’ll be without “help”.

  2. cbrown386 - Nov 25, 2013 at 11:34 AM

    I think in a way Cuban is right, why are we dismissing the use of something before it has been tested? When you look at the NFL, for example, many players struggle with opiate addictions as a result of prolonged painkiller use (and abuse). Is HGH a worse drug? Could HGH be a safer alternative? Take 4 weeks off and heal faster with HGH or fight through the year on painkillers to avoid surgery for another 2 months?

    Looking into the situation with an open mind and getting the facts straightened out is much smarter than looking back in 50 years and saying ‘oh, that HGH stuff really wasn’t so bad.’ I’m certainly not advocating its use, but I am saying that without the proper research, it’s unfair for judgement to be made. Especially when, as the article points out, HGH is openly available and cannot be tested for. Players are using it now and they will be until it’s completely tested for and illegal.

    • shanelsweet - Nov 25, 2013 at 12:55 PM

      Because “(t)he possible side effects, according to the FDA, include an increased risk of cancer, nerve pain and elevated cholesterol and glucose levels.” Once the pros use it, then the folks who want to be pros will use it, and then you’ll see it at the high school level. Kids shouldn’t be asked to make that choice. Let’s keep pro sports clean for the sake of our kids who shouldn’t feel the pressure to risk “an increased risk of cancer” just to keep up with their peers in chasing a pro career than only a very few will ever achieve.

      • cbrown386 - Nov 25, 2013 at 1:18 PM

        First, those are possible side effects. The truth is unclear. The same as marijuana used to have all kinds of ridiculous side effects and now here we are 100 years later with an illegal substance that is perfectly safe. Not saying that the two are similar, but the situations have parallels.

        Again, to the painkiller example, should we be telling kids that it’s ok to play on a sprained ankle as long as you take a cortizone shot before the game and pop a few PKs afterwards?

        Leave HGH in the hands of medical professionals and I don’t think you have to worry about kids going after it any more so than you already have kids asking around for anything that can be construed as a ‘steroid.’

  3. davidly - Nov 25, 2013 at 12:06 PM

    The elephant: undocumented use of HGH has already proved successful in quicker recovery, but also results in an increased likelihood of re-injury with other longer term complications.

    Studies would only show what those who’d love to make money off of their manufacture, sale, and implementation want them to show. Just like the war on drugs, however, those who currently benefit from them don’t necessarily have to come out for them. They can have their cake (image) and eat it, too (selectively look the other way).

  4. sdelmonte - Nov 25, 2013 at 12:56 PM

    I rarely agree with Cuban, but he is totally right. It’s silly that a class of drugs is banned without any real understanding of what they do. Something promotes healing, has no major side effects, and no other benefits is no different than a good NSAID.

    Not that I am convinced HGH actually does anything. Which is why there needs to be research before a ban, not after (when it’s now illegal).

  5. bigsuede - Nov 25, 2013 at 1:00 PM

    This is the silliest article ever- Studies have been done on HGH, that is why the FDA only allows human growth hormone used on Specific treatments.

    Forget highly paid athlese- EVERYONE would love to heal faster and be more healthy- HGH on the whole does not- the side effects outweigh the risk for the average person. But it seems Cuban feels with the money on the line- maybe the side effects don’t outweigh the money to be made.

    This is why we have medical ethics- and this is why the FDA makes determinations.

  6. antistratfordian - Nov 25, 2013 at 1:21 PM

    They already do.

  7. annapterp - Nov 25, 2013 at 3:18 PM

    I agree with Cuban. What’s wrong with taking a drug that helps you rehab quicker from injury so you can get back on the court/field and actually earn your money? Obviously more studies need to be made but it makes perfect sense to me.

  8. coltzfan166 - Nov 25, 2013 at 4:46 PM

    Yes.

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