Baseball Crank
Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
April 13, 2007
BASEBALL: HGH Doesn't Work?

I have long been skeptical of people who say steroids don't help in baseball; as I have previously explained, for that to be true you have to show either that (1) steroids don't help you get stronger or (2) strength doesn't help you as a baseball player. I don't buy either one.

JC Bradbury, however, has looked closely at the issue and says that human growth hormone (HGH) actually doesn't help you get stronger.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 1:44 PM | Baseball 2007 | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)

Yeah, but look at what HGH can do for your appearance. Who wouldn't want a gigantic head like Barry Bonds?

I miss the early 90's when we would sit along the left field line at the Vet and heckle his (then) skinny arse when the Pirates came to town. Barry Bonds, Bobby Bonilla, a chain smoking manager... those Pirates teams were easy to hate back then.

Posted by: Mark D at April 13, 2007 3:26 PM

My recollection from Game of Shadows is that Bonds got hurt his first year on steroids due to an imbalalance between his newly pumped-up muscles and the connecting ligaments and tendons.

He added HGH to the mix the following year with the results we saw.

But he was not using HGH as a stand-alone, which seems to be the point of the linked article.

*IF* my memory is accurate *and* Bonds' experience is medically sensible, then the absence of a test for athletes use of HGH won't be a problem (another point of the linked article) - HGH would only be effective if used in conjunction with banned, tested steroids.

Posted by: Tom Maguire at April 13, 2007 10:02 PM

My limited knowledge of steroid use says it:
1. Lets you work out for longer periods of time and allows for a faster recovery, and

2. Makes your muscles move faster. If you use a drug that makes you move faster that is an advantage. It lets you wait a moment more on the pitch.

Posted by: Daryl Rosenblatt at April 13, 2007 11:12 PM

In my mind, the roles and functions of many of the illicit substances are not limited to increasing brute strength alone, but also in aiding recovery time. Allegations have been made that the most widespread substance abuse has been among players popping "greenies" or some type of amphetamine in order to heighten stamina and energy levels.

Athletes need not only to get very strong, but to stay there - stay healthy, stay energetic, not only in short sprints - but throughout a very long season.

Although you may have an even better source to turn to quickly - Wikipedia lists the following as functions of growth hormone:

"Other functions
Although height growth is the best known effect of GH, it serves many other metabolic functions as well.
It increases calcium retention, and strengthens and increases the mineralization of bone.
It increases muscle mass through the creation of new muscle cells (which differs from hypertrophy)
It promotes lipolysis, which results in the reduction of adipose tissue (body fat).
It increases protein synthesis and stimulates the growth of all internal organs excluding the brain.
It plays a role in fuel homeostasis.
It reduces liver uptake of glucose, an effect that opposes that of insulin.
It promotes liver gluconeogenesis.[6]
It contributes to the maintenance and function of pancreatic islets.
It stimulates the immune system."

It seems as it at least some of those effects would potentially be beneficial, though I did find the article you liked to an interesting read. I wouldn't be too surprised if those who were taking HGH were wasting their time (as well as harming their health)

Posted by: Mike F. at April 14, 2007 1:30 AM

Well, I'll admit this has got me thinking. I was never one to say "HGH" is a (not-so) secret weapon that has fueled Barry Bonds...

But c'mon the studies that this article cites are not exactly age/fitness level appropriate....

"study involving 27 women and 34 men, 68 to 88 years of age"

These are anti-aging studies for normal people maybe fit normal people, but still, not professional athletes.

I also think that as many of the comments point out, the media has lead us to believe that HGH is best used in conjunction with other PEDs to aid in recovery, and growth of non-muscle tissue. To debunk this claim, a specific study would need to be developed around that claim.

It frustrates me when people point to selected quotes from scientific articles and use those selected quotes to support some broader claim. Scientists (at least good ones) take great pains to clearly articulate what exactly they were testing, and why their results prove or disprove a particular point.

From the snippets that have been shared with us, these both look like anti-aging studies. There is a mention of lack of increased strength, true, but that particular benefit has never been on the list of reasons to take HGH, as I understood them.

This quote seems particularly dubious to me....

"a study of 18 healthy men, 65 to 82 years of age, who underwent progressive strength training for 14 weeks, followed by an additional 10 weeks of strength training plus either growth hormone or placebo. In that study, resistance exercise training increased muscle strength significantly; the addition of growth hormone did not result in any further improvement."

So if we dissect this, we see that all the subjects were old. They all "increased muscle stength significantly" in an 14 week "progressive strength training" program.

Ok, so Barry Bonds lifts weights for 14 weeks... does he get "significantly stronger"? No, because he is already at an elite level. For him to get stronger, he needs to workout even more. Not 30 minutes a day for 14 weeks, not 1 hour 3 times a week for 14 weeks, Barry Bonds needs to spend 5-6 hours a day working out. And to do that, you are going to be breaking yourself down, in a big way. Bonds doesn't need HGH to help make his muscles strong, he needs HGH (or something) to make the rest of his body catch up to what his muscles are doing.

I realize this post is getting long, so let me just finish with this.

I have personal experience of pushing your body in directions and levels that no-one would have been expected possible from your body. I've become an Ironman triathlete after 34 years of being overweight and unhealthy.

I've learned a lot of things from this process is, a couple of which I think apply to Pro Athletes like Barry Bonds.

1) If you set your mind to something, you can push your body to do amazing things... even without the help of PEDs.

2) More importantly for this discussion - different parts of your body may have more capability to withstand shock (and training is all about shock) than other parts of your body. It's very possible to reach a level where body part A could go further but body part B can't go further at the same pace. In my case, my heart, lungs, and muscles can do a lot more than my bones and joints. In the case of Barry bonds, I suspect he reached a similar point, he's muscles were able to grow bigger and faster than his connective tissue could handle.

The safe, non-PED answer to this problem is time... adjust your time horizon, let the rest of your body catch up. Barry doesn't strike me as a patient guy, and as such I suspect that he turned to HGH to help in his recovery for OTHER PARTS of his body... not his muscles.

Show me a scientific test that demonstrates that HGH doesn't aid in the growth and strengthening of bones and ligaments and connective tissue, and I'll believe that it wouldn't help Barry Bonds.

Posted by: ZappoMan at April 16, 2007 1:41 PM
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