The latest and greatest performance enhancer, if you've been living under a rock, is deer antler velvet. On the surface, it seems like it could make sense. The coating on the antlers of young male deer that contribute to the growth of that part of their body could help athletes. First, the NFL prohibited Oakland Raiders coach Hue Jackson from endorsing it. Now, according to SI.com, Major League Baseball is warning players about using it.
Deer antler, or more specifically ‘velvet antler”which refers to the soft, newly grown antler before it hardens, not just the velvet skin’has been used in Chinese medicine for 2000 years. Often prescribed as a tonic, it is reputed to boost the immune system, improve stamina and reduce swelling. It is also prescribed to promote wound healing and strengthen bones and said to be an aphrodisiac and to enhance fertility. In China, velvet antler is seen as second only to ginseng in its restorative powers.
The harvesting of deer antler velvet can be a painful process, as the velvet tissue contains an abundance of nerves and bleeds profusely if cut or removed. Dr. Low Dog says she has no problem with harvesting velvet from deer killed for food, but is concerned that shortcuts will be taken should demand for the supplements continue to grow. She notes that the United Kingdom has banned the removal of deer antler velvet under its welfare-of-livestock regulations, unless the antlers have been damaged or most of the velvet has been shed.
S.W.A.T.S. Fitness and Performance was a dietary supplement company that sold deer antler spray and other products. The owners began distributing their products to NCAA and NFL athletes in 2008. The controversy initially started in March 30, 2009 when Alabama athletic officials sent a cease-and-desist letter to the company's owner that stated: "Refrain from using current student-athletes to endorse products. Refrain from contacting current student-athletes. Refrain from giving or selling products to current student-athletes."  The letter was then sent again in 2012.
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Improved Athletic Performance: Whether you’re a professional athlete, a weekend warrior, or you just throw a ball around the front yard with your kids once in awhile, Deer Antler Velvet makes what you do better because it enhances the muscles, energy, stamina and circulation of your body. Think about the way you feel going into a sport or activity without warming up first, and how you feel after about 30 minutes or so into the activity. That smooth, loose, flowing feeling you have after you get “warmed up,” and get the blood flowing and the muscle temperature raised with activity makes a big difference in how you feel and how you play. It’s a subtle thing, but when you feel it you know it. Deer Antler Velvet does the same thing-provides a subtle, yet distinct sense that your body is ready to function at a higher level.
Deer antler velvet is the tissue that covers the bone and cartilage that develop into deer (and elk) antlers. It has been harvested for centuries and used traditionally to increase strength, boost the immune system, and counter the effects of stress. Now it’s promoted to improve athletic performance; raise testosterone levels to increase sex drive, fertility and erectile function in men; as well as to reduce the signs of aging and treat problems ranging from high cholesterol, high blood pressure, asthma and osteoporosis to migraine headaches, indigestion, and many more.
The answer is that deer antler velvet is just another fat burner. Another cell volumizer. Another body-toning shoe. It’s fitness marketing at it’s finest—playing off a goal you desire (gaining more muscle and size) and drawing unsubstantiated and wildly exaggerated claims. There’s nothing miraculous about deer antler spray. And after a closer look at the product, there’s really—well—nothing to it at all.
The IGF-1 in deer antler velvet can help increase the body's natural healing by affecting cell repair and growth. When an injury or surgery occurs that leaves a wound on the body, the wound is healed naturally by the cells which line the wound. Those cells multiply and rejoin over time. Using deer antler velvet can help promote faster cell repair and growth so that the wound can heal at a faster rate which means less time being injured or sore.
In a randomized, placebo controlled test in 2004, researchers at the University of Alberta, Canada, placed 18 males from the Edmonton Police Force into a 9 week strength training program. The results showed that deer antler velvet increased the strength and endurance of the subjects relative to the control group. The researchers found that use of deer antler velvet significantly increased blood plasma testosterone levels.