In the lead-up to Superbowl Sunday, Baltimore Ravens superstar linebacker Ray Lewis came under fire for using a product called deer antler spray that allegedly contains a substance banned by the NFL.
If Lewis was indeed using deer antler spray in the hope it would expedite healing of a triceps injury, he should probably familiarize himself with the phrase, “there’s a sucker born every minute.”
Deer antlers do, in fact, contain a substance called insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1), lots of it, which is why deer’s antlers grow much faster than their bodies. IGF-1 is, in fact, used in an injection form to treat children with growth deficiencies. And, in fact, many governing bodies of sports leagues, including the NFL, have banned it.
The problem is, like so many under-regulated pseudoscientific “health” products, there is no evidence that deer antler spray can deliver the goods.
According to the Baltimore Sun, Dr. Roberto Salvatori, an endocrinologist at Johns Hopkins Medicine, said there is no medically valid way to deliver IGF-1 orally or in a spray. “If there were, a lot of people would be happy that they don’t need to get shots anymore,” Salvatori said. “It’s just simply not possible for it to come from a spray.”
Now, athletes have been known to be a tad superstitious, but Lewis was apparently ripe for a good rip-off. Mitch Ross the huckster who allegedly sold Lewis the deer antler spray, told Sports Illustrated he also prescribed holographic stickers, deer antler pills, sleeping in front of a beam-ray light and drinking negatively charged water, all of which have been thoroughly debunked.
Snake-oil salesmanship is still alive and well even in the 21st century aided and abetted by our regulatory bodies. Neither the Federal Drug Administration in the U.S. nor Health Canada requires proof of efficacy for “alternative therapies” only that they don’t pose an imminent danger. That must change.
In simple terms
A new Internet meme has taken scientists by storm. It is a challenge for science writers to describe what they do using only the 1,000 most frequently used words in the English Language. Dubbed Up-Goer Five, after a comic that attempts to describe the blueprints of the Saturn V rocket using only the “ten hundred words people use the most often.” ‘Ten hundred,’ because the word ‘thousand’ is ironically not among the top thousand words.
It is really an absurd exercise, but with good intentions to make science communicators think about how to present complex ideas in an understandable way.
The results really are absurd, as you will see from the following translation of my above column. Personally, I think dumbing down writing in order to combat the dumbing down of society is, well, dumb. We should be elevating scientific literacy for everybody.
My story using only the ten hundred words people use most
In the lead-up to the game that decides the best team in the game played with a ball that is longer than it is wide on a field with lines, the star player who carries the ball from the city that is number 24 of the largest in the land where everyone has guns came under fire for using a thing that is not allowed that is made from the hard things on top of the head of a large animal that lives in the woods.
If the player was using the thing that is not allowed in the hope it would make his arm feel better, he should probably listen to the old idea that a person comes out of his mother every minute, who will get taken in by things that don’t work.
The hard things on the top of the animal’s head do have a thing in them that makes the hard things grow faster than the animal’s body. That thing is used to help children who are not growing the way they should grow. The people who say what is allowed in the game say you can’t use that thing.
The problem is, like so many things that people use to make them feel better that don’t work, no one has ever been able to show that the thing people say the player took works.
The paper in the city on which people who tell news stories tell their stories said a very good doctor from a very good school said there is no way the thing could work in the form that people say the player used it.
Now, a lot of people who play the game have been known to be a little bit easy for other people to talk into paying money for things that don’t work, but this player was really easy talk into doing things that don’t work. The man who people say talked the player into using the thing, said he also told the player to do some other things that also don’t work.
People who get other people to pay for things that don’t work are still doing it even in this year that the world is so far ahead of where it was long ago and they are doing it with the help of the people in power who say what people can buy and what they can’t.
None of those power people in the land where everyone has guns or in the land where it is very cold above the land where everyone has guns say the people who make a thing have to show it works; they only say the people who make a thing have to show that it can’t hurt you.
That must change.