Today’s sports are more competitive than ever, with professional athletes vying for multi-million dollar contracts, and all types of endorsements and campaigns associated with big sporting events. However, the increased competitiveness isn’t just limited to professional sports anymore – everyone from college athletes to parents of young athletes are looking for ways to enhance performance. In this article, you’ll discover some of the emerging sport performance enhancement techniques along with the potential benefits and risks associated with these types of drastic measures.
Why Athletes Choose Extreme Enhancement Techniques
For decades, athletes have been looking for ways to increase their success in certain sports. Though practices, personal trainers, special diets and natural ability all come into play in improving performance on the field, they can only take you so far. In some cases, athletes have turned to drugs or steroids to increase their performance. However, since these practices have come to light – particularly in professional sports – athletes are expected to avoid any of these unnatural performance enhancers. In addition to being kicked off a team or kicked out a league, athletes who try these extreme techniques can suffer negative consequences due to the substances in steroids and other drugs.
That’s where extreme performance enhancement techniques come in. These practices are considered to be more “natural” than steroids since they don’t involve illegal or harmful substances. Instead, they affect certain aspects of an athlete’s body in order to increase efficiency, speed, abilities or endurance. For many athletes, these enhancements are seen as a safer, more acceptable way to improve their performance.
Types of Sport Performance Enhancement
Some of the most popular types of extreme performance enhancement techniques in sports include:
- Tommy John Surgery: This procedure first gained exposure in 1974 when professional baseball pitcher Tommy John had the surgery after sustaining a major injury to his ulnar collateral ligament. The procedure involves using tendons from other areas of the body to replace the ulnar collateral ligament. The surgery ended up allowing John to throw harder than before, leading many athletes to opt for this surgery regardless of whether they had sustained an injury to the ligament.
- Platelet-Rich Plasma Therapy: This therapy, which is often abbreviated as PRP, involves drawing blood and spinning it to separate out certain compounds, including platelets. Those are use to make platelet-rich plasma, which can be utilized to speed up healing and reduce pain. This therapy has often been utilized by athletes to minimize their downtime after a surgery.
- Full-Body Cryotherapy: Since icing injuries has been proven effective, some people utilize pod-like chambers which can be as cold as -160 degrees Fahrenheit. Athletes use these chambers for only a few minutes at a time in the hopes of helping their muscles recover more quickly.
- Hyperbaric Therapy: Also taking place in a pod-like chamber, this practice involves exposure to concentrated oxygen and pressure. This is intended to force the body’s oxygen to help the athlete recover more quickly and increase their endurance.
- Stem Cell Therapy: Similar to PRP, this therapy involves taking stem cells from the athlete and injecting those cells into the site where the athlete has sustained an injury. The intent is for the stem cells to stimulate healing in the injured area and help to create new tissue.
Pros and Cons
There are many potential benefits for athletes who undergo one of these sport performance enhancement techniques. For example, professional athletes may be able to perform better and therefore secure a larger salary, be traded to a better team or gain more exposure. For amateur athletes, better performance can help them get noticed by scouts, get better scholarships for college athletics or get picked up by better teams. In addition, these athletes may be able to recover from their injuries faster, which helps them lose less playing time after an injury occurs.
However, there are still many risks associated with these types of extreme enhancement therapies. First, some techniques have not been thoroughly researched yet, leaving long-term effects unknown. Additionally, some practices could lead to other health problems; with Tommy John surgery, for example, a patient increases their risk of infection by undergoing surgery. Finally, there is no guarantee that these therapies will work, so it could result in time and money wasted.
Another important thing to consider is the ethical controversy over these performance enhancing techniques. Many people feel that some of these practices give players an unfair advantage and that athletes should focus on natural skill and training rather than medical procedures and therapies. This is an argument that is often used to discourage drug and steroid performance enhancers in sports as well. Additionally, some have concerns that, because these enhancement techniques are often very costly and not covered by insurance, they put less wealthy athletes at a disadvantage.
If you are considering undergoing any of these performance enhancing techniques, it’s important to discuss all possible options and risk with your doctor at length before making a final decision.