Jan 29, 2015
T&C’s Believe It or Not!

By Chelsea Dutton and Elizabeth Gomez

This week, we bring you head-scratching tales of home remedies from around the world credited with healing sports medicine injuries. From horse placenta fluid to cheese curd, a number of bizarre treatments have raised eyebrows and questions about whether or not they simply acted as placebos. However, one fact remains: In each instance, the athlete seemed to benefit.

There is an ever-growing list of athletes seeking out medical help in the most unlikely of places. For instance, soccer player Danzo Lazovic sought the help of a Serbian housewife upon suffering an injury to his hamstring last fall. Although it was speculated his injury would keep him sidelined for around five weeks, Lazovic was able to return to the game after only one week.

What treatment brought him back so quickly? None other than placenta fluid from a horse. As the story goes, the housewife rubbed the fluid on the injured part of his leg and Lazovic was cured of his hamstring injury–reportedly much faster than any doctor could have imagined.

This sort of story doesn’t seem to be so uncommon in the world of soccer. Some of the most outrageous medical remedies in sport come from the world’s most beloved game. Famed English striker Peter MacDonald, for example, was once treated with injections of goat’s blood after he suffered a serious hamstring injury.

And when playing games in the mountainous Bolivian capital of La Paz, the Blooming soccer squad was prescribed Viagra in order to help the players compete at the extreme altitudes. The drug, designed to increase blood flow through the body, has now become a regular treatment for various South American soccer teams when playing in regions that are notorious for their locations thousands of miles high above sea level.

In addition to these less-than-traditional sport medicine methods, various other treatments such as faith healing, voodoo, and even the removal of teeth have been used in soccer. Team doctors aren’t always able to explain why some of these remedies work, but most attribute the successes to the placebo effect.

In the days leading up to the 2010 Winter Olympics, one of the headlines splashed across every sports page in the country involved the status of U.S. skier Lindsey Vonn. An enormous gold medal favorite in five alpine skiing events, Vonn suffered a bruised shin during a training run in Austria. With the 2010 games just around the corner, she turned to a virtually unknown remedy to help ease her ailing leg: cheese curd.

Topfen cheese curd, sometimes used by Austrian skiers for treatment of various injuries, is a semisoft cheese popular in Germany, Poland, Russia, and Austria. Seemingly influenced by her Austrian coach, Vonn turned to this alternative method by wrapping her leg in the cheese in an effort to reduce swelling. It seems to have worked, as she took home gold and bronze medals in two events in Vancouver. Vonn’s cheese cure isn’t the only unique remedy that was used in the Olympics. Dr. Bob McCormack, the Canadian Olympic team’s Chief Medical Officer, told the Associated Press about an Olympian who used urine as a treatment.

“I remember one of our athletes coming to a previous Games, a young athlete who was told by her coach, for her sprained ankle, what she needed to do was urinate in a rag and wrap her ankle in the urine-soaked rag,” he said. “The idea was the uric acid would drain out the swelling. That’s an example of something that’s been used in Eastern Europe.

“For me, the issue is, ‘Will it do harm to the athlete and is it performance enhancing from the WADA [World Anti-Doping Association] perspective?'” McCormack added. “I can’t see it doing any harm and if the athlete believes in it, I am OK with it.”

Chelsea Dutton and Elizabeth Gomez are junior Sports Media majors at Ithaca College. FEEDBACK: “…regular treatment for various South American soccer teams when playing in regions that are notorious for their locations thousands of miles above sea level.” I doubt if you really meant thousands of miles above sea level unless they are playing on the moon. The real issue I have with this story is the information is presented as fact. Non-medical professionals read this and believe this is the best approach to managing injuries. The article should have included a statement regarding the lack of scientific efficacy of such treatments and that Training and Conditioning does not endorse or support the use of such treatments in the management of athletic injuries. Mark A. Anderson, PT, PhD, ATC University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center Department of Rehabilitation Sciences

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