HGH Threat: Works Like Steroids but Undetectable

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Arizona Diamondback pitcher Jason Grimsley will be sitting out 50 games because he used performance enhancing substances, including human growth hormone. Now some coaches worry that students will take Grimsley's lead and start using HGH to improve their performances and physiques.

Like creatine and steroids, HGH reduces fat and builds lean muscle, helping to create an all-star athlete's build. But HGH doesn't put the athlete at risk of getting caught because there's no reliable test for it. The human body naturally produces HGH to help with bone and tissue growth and to repair itself and fight disease.

So some coaches wonder if Grimsley will do for HGH what Jose Canseco did for steroids, and hope that the government works to clamp down on it.

"Everyone wanted to put it [HGH] under the carpet, and now we've got to face the issue," said Rob Davini, executive director of the National High School Baseball Association.

Davini was both a high school and college baseball coach for more than 35 years in Arizona, and he said it's always difficult to tell if high school players are using. "On the high school level kids are getting bigger and stronger, but I can't tell if that's to do with HGH or if they're just going through a growth spurt," he said.

There are no concrete statistics on HGH use yet, mainly because it is so difficult to detect. But Gary Wadler, a fellow at the American College of Sports Medicine, said the use of HGH could approach that of steroids.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, approximately 8 to 10 percent of high school students have experimented with or are using anabolic steriods.

"We were all concerned about steroid use in schools; now we're concerned with HGH use trickling down to high schools because they're role modeling off these sports figures," said Wadler.

Jim Hall, a baseball and football coach for 32 years at Rockport High School, in Rockport, Ill., said the use of HGH is nothing new in sports.

"Major League Baseball knew about this for a long time, and they just turned their back," Hall said. "No one complained because they were hitting home runs and making megabucks."

Hall said he hoped that Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and other legislators would stand by their word to clean up Major League Baseball.

"It's scary that it's out there. It's scary that kids want to use it," Hall said.

'Fountain of Youth' Gets Risky

Not only do athletes use HGH, the hormone has been touted as a fountain of youth pill -- reducing wrinkles, increasing sex drive, producing muscle mass and reducing body fat. For example, Grimsley, who is 38, might produce the same amount of human growth hormone as a 25-year-old by taking the drug.

Yet the side effects of HGH have shown to be as damaging and irreversible as those linked to steroids.

The human body naturally puts out approximately 15 pulses of HGH daily from the pituitary gland. When additional levels of HGH are added to the body, a disorder called acromegaly, or gigantism, can develop. A person could grow a tumor in the brain that results in the elongation of the skull, hands, feet, jaw and tongue; the teeth would begin to separate; and vital organs, like the heart, liver and spleen grow abnormally large.

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