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One Doc's Opinion - Don't Go, T.O.
Owens, Eagles are going against Sound Medical Advice

Monday, January 31, 2005

By David W. Unkle
NBCSports.com Correspondent

Terrell Owens shouldn't go against doctor's recommendations not to play in the Super Bowl, writes NBCSports.com's David W. Unkle.

The topic of Terrell Owens, his leg injury and whether he'll play in the Super Bowl has been debated not only by a plethora of journalists, but also doctors and medical ethicists.

Owens, who suffered a high ankle sprain and a small fracture of his leg in a game against the Cowboys on Dec. 19, wants to play against the Patriots, even though the surgeon who operated on him won't release him.

Add in the fact that Owens has been using a controversial hyperbaric chamber to speed his healing process, and the feathers over the Eagles receiver really fly.

Is Owens really ready to withstand the rigors of an NFL game? It's doubtful. He and the team appear to be going against sound medical advice and relying on a healing method that doesn't have scientific evidence to back it up. Simply put, he shouldn't play.

The Eagles' star receiver was originally expected to be out 8-12 weeks, but if he plays in the Super Bowl, that will be seven weeks since his injury. He's crediting his hyperbaric oxygen chamber (HBO) for some of that success.

Using the pressurized chamber, HBO increases the amount of oxygen to the body, which equates to reduced swelling and pain and quicker recovery.

Theoretically, that is.

HBO treatments for a few maladies have been certified, but there's no scientific data to suggest it would help Owens heal faster.

Bill Schindler, a representative of Atlanta-based Hyperbaric Therapy Center, which sells the portable chamber, is a passionate believer in the role HBO has in sports medicine.

Although Schindler agreed that there is a lack of scientific data, he added that “people have nothing to lose (in trying the chamber) and everything to gain.”

With the advent of the portable units, which weigh approximately 50 pounds and cost between $9,500 and $20,000 in cost, HBO is gaining a cult following among athletes and Hollywood actors.

Mario Lemieux, John Smoltz, Evander Holyfield, Lance Armstrong and James Caan are just of the few of the recognizable names using HBO in their home or in out-of-hospital settings to overcome the physical demands of their respective crafts or rehabilitate from injury.

Enter Owens. The surgeon who operated on his leg won't medically clear him to play. The Eagles, saying "our risk-reward is different," plan to let Owens continue his rehab, with the hope of him getting on the field.

Owens reportedly will practice Monday.

The Eagles should take a cue from their own past. Franchise quarterback Donovan McNabb talked his way back onto the field (without a complete diagnostic examination) during a game in against the Cardinals in November 2002.

McNabb was injured on the game’s third play and returned on the team’s next possession with what was thought to be a sprain.

X-rays taken after the game revealed a fractured fibula, and McNabb missed eight weeks of action.

A century ago, philosopher George Santayana proclaimed, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

Sound advice for the Super Bowl-bound team and their Pro Bowl receiver.

David W. Unkle is a freelance football, hockey and medical writer along with hosting a weekly interview-formatted radio program in the Philadelphia market. He is a Fellow of the American College of Critical Care Medicine and an Instructor at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey – Stratford Campus. He can be contacted via his website: http://www.topcatsports.org. Wire reports and previous reports were used in the preparation of this article.

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