NFL Players Using Chinese Herbs for Performance Enhancement

The new NFL logo went into use at the 2008 draft.

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NFL players are looking for an edge in performance.  Always. It’s in their blood.  Well, it’s at least in their paychecks. They get paid to play, and play well.  Some of them will go to extremes to get an edge on the competition.  Apparently, some professional athletes have searched far, wide and dug deep into the ancient texts of ancient Chinese medicine for this next performance enhancement drug (PED).  OK, maybe the athletes had been given some slight push, or very gentle nudging in this direction from their doctors and trainers in the usage of deer antler for performance enhancement.  Deer what? Deer god, please give me the strength to tackle well and keep up with the next guy.  One scoop of deer antler powder with water and down the hatch!

There are a few players in the National Football League (NFL) now using crushed velvet deer antler to boost their on-field skills and performance.  That’s great!  Or is it? It seems as though these clever footballers or someone close to them has figured out that a certain type of natural product can give them more strength in the weight room, boost their speed on the field, and enhance their recovery time. Plus, it’s not on the NFL’s list of banned substances. What??  Of course, the NFL’s crackdown on banned substances have mainly focused on lab derived drugs for enhancement. Rightfully so, but this one is naturally occurring and has been used for thousands of years in Asia.  It’s just never been popular in America. Until now.

Deer antler is not on the NFL’s banned substance list.  I’m sure of it.  But, what the NFL didn’t know, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has known for thousands of years.  Deer antler, or Lu Rong in TCM, is a highly studied herb for male performance enhancement. Velvet deer antler has been understood by TCM practitioners to enhance male sexual function as well as provide other benefits that go along with the male sex hormone testosterone. Lu Rong can come from a few different species of deer and the velvet deer is one of them.  In this case, the NFL players are using velvet deer antler crushed and shipped from New Zealand.  But, with the internet you should be able to order deer antler from anywhere and still reap the rewards.

Is deer antler bad?  Well, it could be if taken in large doses.  I’m not sure that there are any studies done on overdosing on deer antler, but I could be wrong. There is plenty of IGF-1 found in velvet deer antler.  Enough to flag the NFL drug testers’ desire to ban Lu Rong for the players.  But, it’s naturally occurring, so that’s ok, right?  Well, we will let the NFL sort through their own fine print to loosely clarify this point.

To make this story even more sad, I believe that once the NFL bans the naturally occurring deer antler for their players, Lu Rong will continue to be abused enough by other athletes, the general public, and “get-rich-quick herbal companies” to stimulate that knee-jerk reaction of the American government to enforce a countrywide ban for this new thing they can’t control. By the way, I’m sure the football players are taking more than the “recommended dose” suggested by their supplier. I’m also sure that someone will eventually take a lethal dose of Lu Rong and this will be the red flag in curtailing its use in America.  (Look at what happened to ephedra, aka Ma Huang in Traditional Chinese Medicine.) The herb will then be banned and even those of us (herbalists, acupuncturists, TCM practitioners) who can use it for beneficial medical purposes, will have to wait until the ban gets lifted.

But soon enough, someone will flip to another page in the ancient TCM books and find another naturally occurring enhancement herb.  The cycle will undoubtedly repeat itself.