Athletes who have been operated on for torn biceps muscle tendons recover faster if they use steroids, write surgeons at Aristotle's University of Thessaloniki, Greece, in Injury.
Doctors don't know for sure whether steroids increase the chance of muscles tearing or not. It is a known fact that many users need surgery after tearing muscles or tendons, but it's not clear what actually causes these injuries: the steroids or the – often too heavy – training the users have subjected themselves to.
The Greeks looked at another aspect, however. They studied 17 male athletes who had been operated on between 2003 and 2009 following a tear of the biceps muscle attachment to their forearm. The researchers monitored the athletes for two years, and determined the extent of their recovery after 4 weeks [1st follow up], 16 weeks [2nd follow up], 1 year [3rd follow up] and 2 years [4th follow up].
Of the athletes who had been operated on, 6 used steroids and 11 did not.
The researchers had the athletes complete a standard questionnaire about the functioning of their elbow and hand-elbow-shoulder system, and then used the answers to calculate the men's Mayo Elbow Performance Score and the Disabilities Of The Arm, Shoulder And Hand Score.
The figure below shows the development of the Mayo Elbow Performance Score. The higher the score, the better the elbow's functioning. As you can see, the steroids users recover faster than the non-users.
The second figure shows the development of the Disabilities Of The Arm, Shoulder And Hand Score. Reading this with a bit of imagination you can see that steroids users recover faster than non-users.
Ok, the study was a small one, so you have to be careful with the conclusions you draw, the Greeks acknowledge. But if larger studies confirm these results, then surgeons may want to investigate whether it's worth using steroids as a therapeutic measure after similar interventions.
"For anabolic therapies, concerns regarding potential pharmaceutical toxicity and safety issues are only related to high doses, with low-dose, short-term treatment strategies (with adjuvant hepatoprotection) likely to have reduced toxic effects, deeming their clinical merit worth testing", the researchers write. "Alternatively, application of emerging tissue-engineering technologies (that facilitate the timed and controlled release of anabolic agents) could help minimise potential side effects."
Injury. 2011 Nov;42(11):1307-12.