Researching the Creation of Super Athletes

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Dr. Kathy Maupin and Brett Newcomb discuss a recent article in Men’s Journal about recent medical advances aimed at creating a “super athlete.” They also discuss the potential health benefits of current stem-cell uses and developing research.

This week, Brett and I are going to be talking about an article that we read in the August edition of Men’s Journal. The article is entitled, “Building the New Super Athlete: How Medical Technology is Re-engineering The Human Body for Optimal and Usually Legal Performance.” We want to discuss the ideas that they present because the research aspect of this is really fascinating. We never know where the unintended consequences or maybe even the intended consequences can lead.

The August 2013 article presented us with a half dozen different techniques and experiments that are being utilized to create a “super athlete”. Part of why it is fascinating to of as caretakers of over-40 patients is that it investigates new ways to improve endurance and performance, as well as techniques for making individuals feel younger. Some of this work has potential for treating various illnesses and diseases such as Multiple Sclerosis. However, there are many concerns among the regulatory agencies about these techniques in regard to both medical experimentation and research. The standards and regulations should be different for athletes than they should be for the rest of us. For professional athletes, the rules are aimed at preventing unfair advantages in sports. Non-athletes, however, are more concerned with effectiveness and safety, which is a separate issue.

In our podcast, we discuss the process of monitoring and regulating drugs, such as testosterone pellets, for the normal-aging patients in the medical environment. Testosterone is often over-regulated in order to prevent abuse by professional athletes. However, there are many legitimate uses for testosterone, especially for aging patients. My experience with my patients and the pharmacies that make testosterone pellets suggests that there are very safe products available (at least as safe and probably more effective than the FDA-approved, mass-produced drugs.)  The FDA is controlled by pharmaceutical companies and by government limitations, and misuse by athletes is used as a reason to limit access to aging patients who may be able to live a healthier life through hormone replacement therapy. We are engaged in a war over control and regulation of testosterone, and it has limited our ability to provide preventive care for our aging patients. We argue that the relationship between the patient and the physician should be primary, with less regulation by non-physician bureaucrats and politicians.

One of the techniques for healing damaged joints in athletes is the injection of a patient’s own stem cells into the joint in order to strengthen performance and endurance in sporting events. We consider this use of stem cells to enhance performance in competitive events to be an unfair advantage. However, we also attest to the healing aspects of using stem cells to help people recover from and to treat knee surgery, joint problems, etc. There is a new area of medicine that is growing out of these test cases. Listen as we discuss these and other issues, see if you agree with our point of view, and participate in the discussion.

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