IGF-1 is currently on the World Anti-Doping Agency’s prohibited list due to how it gives athletes an unfair advantage in terms of building strength and muscle mass. (7) However, it’s still legal to use supplements that may provide IGF-1 or similar effects. Most of the studies that show positive results from using deer antler supplements have used high doses. And some have tested the product on animals (mice or rats) rather than humans.
Generally researchers agree that deer antler velvet protects, strengthens and restores the body's functions that are out of balance. In other words, it can act as an adaptogen on the human body, helping where it is needed. Studies suggest that deer antler velvet may have beneficial effects related to: increases in muscular development, strength and endurance; improved recovery; prevention and reduction of inflammation; improvement of sexual health; reduction in blood pressure; improvement in bone and joint health; stimulation of the immune system; and more.
But when it comes to sprays or pills, there’s little evidence that deer antler offers performance enhancing benefits of any kind, says Alan Rogol, M.D., an endocrinologist at the University of Virginia. Rogol is also part of a small team of doctors that assists anti-doping agencies in determining if and when athletes can use certain controversial substances.
A systemic review on human interventions makes note of a study conducted on patients of osteoarthritis (Edelman et al. 2000; cannot be located online) which found improvements in joint pain symptoms relative to baseline in the Velvet Antler group and not placebo, although a lack of information on blinding and randomization precludes results that can be drawn from this study.