Probably the biggest threat to any athlete’s career is the possibility of injury. Any sort of physical activity carries the risk of damage to the body, and that can lead to potentially lengthy layoffs. So perhaps it's not surprising that unconventional sports injury treatments have been developed to help stars get back to action sooner.
Some of the weird ways athletes treat injuries seem too bizarre to be true. Who would ever think to use hamster ovaries to heal broken bones? And how can cheese possibly prevent bruising? But both of these methods - and many more that are just as strange - have been employed by professional players looking to return to the field as quickly as possible.
While the vast majority of individuals will stick with tried-and-true methods that are considered medically sound by most health professionals, others will go to extreme lengths to heal their bodies. In some instances, how athletes treat injuries boggles the mind.
The erectile-dysfunction drug Viagra isn't normally associated with athletic performance. However, evidence suggests that the drug may benefit athletes who are playing at high altitudes. Viagra increases blood flow, not only to the genitals, but also to the lungs, leading to more oxygen being pumped around the body. When an athlete's blood is more oxygenated, fatigue and injuries may be less likely to occur at higher altitudes.
NFL star Brandon Marshall claimed that he knew of several players who used the drug, while soccer teams have allegedly used it when playing in mountainous regions in South America.
Addressing concussions has become a major focal point in sports medicine. Although there is little that can be done for someone with a concussion, one company has created the GyroStim to alleviate the injury's effects. The GryoStim is essentially a giant mechanical chair that rotates the entire body of a patient. This supposedly activates the vestibular system, helping to reduce confusion and head pain while improving balance and motor coordination.
Pittsburgh Penguin player Sidney Crosby used the device in 2011, and believes it significantly aided in his recovery.
When rugby player Kyle Reimers broke his thumb during a match in 2010, he took the unusual step of injecting parts of hamster ovaries into the digit. That's because the ovaries contain a large amount of recombinant human bone morphogenetic protein-7 (also known as OP-1). Studies have shown that this substance is able to stimulate bone growth, accelerating the speed with which fractures and breaks can heal.
The procedure was an apparent success, with Reimers able to jump back into the action after just four weeks - two weeks sooner than originally anticipated.
Halo Neuroscience's headphone-like device uses a technique known as transcranial direct-current stimulation (tDCS) to send electric shocks into the brain. It does this using tiny electrodes in the form of miniature spikes that press just above the ears, allowing the device to zap the area with small pulses.
Studies have shown that tDCS can have positive effects; it can reduce stress during training and help injured players to return to training sooner. Golden State Warrior basketballer James Michael McAdoo used it in 2016, along with several of his teammates.