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|Ex-NFL running back Abdul-Karim al-Jabbar, who played at UCLA, has no misgivings about using HGH.|
|HGH: The next frontier|
Human growth hormone is becoming more popular in the anti-aging field, but should it also be permitted in sports medicine? Check out the rest of Tom Farrey's look at the issue.
• Tom Farrey: The new-rules doc
• The Guru of Growth
|FAQ on HGH|
What is human growth hormone?
• Growth hormone is a powerful anabolic hormone that occurs naturally in the human body. It is produced by the pituitary gland in the brain and stimulates the growth of muscle, cartilage and bone.
• A body produces growth hormone throughout a person's life, but produces more of it during youth.
• HGH was initially isolated in 1956. By 1959, it was starting to be used on children suffering from stunted growth.
• Originally, prior to genetic engineering, the only source of HGH was human corpses. The pituitary glands were removed from cadavers, processed and the hormones made available in injectable form. However, synthetic HGH can now be made in unlimited quantities in the laboratory. The International Olympic Committee's medical commission banned HGH in 1989.
Why would an athlete take HGH?
• To increase muscle size. The ability of growth hormone to enhance performance has not been documented. However, athletes have been known to use growth hormone in combination with testosterone-based solutions that can add strength to those larger muscles. It also allows tired muscles to recover faster -- allowing you to train harder and more often.
Are there any side effects?
• If a body has too much HGH, a condition can result called acromegaly, a disease that causes the hands to become spade-like in appearance as they get bigger. Growth of the facial bones causes the face to change shape, too.
• Organs such as the heart, liver and kidneys also undergo excessive growth, leading to potentially life-threatening problems.
• Accelerated cell growth also increases the risk for cancers.
-- ESPN Research Department, BBC.co.uk and Tom Farrey