helps with and It may sound warm and fuzzy, but deer antler velvet is at the center of a new sports controversy involving Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis.Lewis, who's headed to the Superbowl in New Orleans this weekend, looked into using a nasal spray made of deer antler velvet to heal his torn right triceps, Sports Illustrated reported in their February 4 issue. Lewis denies the story, calling the rumor a "trick of the devil," according to USA Today.
Made from male deer antlers during the stage when the antlers are covered in soft fuzz, the unproven performance enhancer is often used by athletes who believe it helps heal cartilage and tendon injuries more quickly and boosts strength and endurance.
However, it's not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and is banned by the National Football League.
Even so, it's a big business, especially in New Zealand, a major exporter of deer velvet, which ships tens of millions of dollars worth of the substance to Asia and the U.S. each year, according to the New York University Langone Medical Center.
Deer farming is a huge industry in the country, with about 2,800 farmers that own approximately 1.1 million deer, most of them red deer, elk, and red deer-elk hybrids, according to the company New Zealand Deer Velvet.
Before removing the velvet from a stag's antlers, certified veterinarians or farmers give the animal stag a local anesthetic to minimize stress.
We asked a few medical experts to give us the facts
Deer antler velvet is essentially a growth hormone called "insulin-like growth factor 1," or IGF-1.
Growth hormones, which are naturally produced by the brain and liver, regulate how our bodies grow. If the body doesn't produce enough growth hormones, dwarfism can occur; too much, and a person may get acromelagy, a type of gigantism. (See a human-body interactive.) Doctors give growth hormones to young people with stunted growth, but they don't recommend it for athletes or bodybuilders, according to Spyros Mezitis, an endocrinologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.
That's because many athletes take several times the recommended dosage, which ca