ESPN investigative reporter Tom Farrey surveys the medical literature, and finds that HGH may help NFL players with pituitary damage caused by concussions and other head injuries, which can be progressively debilitating, even after a player retires. Unfortunately, anti-PED hysteria will likely prevent the league from allowing HGH to be used as treatment in these cases—at least legitimately:
The league is in a precarious situation. Even if it were willing to test for deficiencies, the fact remains that the medically accepted therapy calls for hormones that have been banned. To complicate matters further, head trauma isn't the only way to wreck a pituitary. Taking high amounts of steroids can shut down the natural production of hormones as well, at least temporarily. Understandably, the NFL doesn't want to create a scenario in which drug-abusing players who show a hormone deficiency are rewarded.
Consider the implications of this passage. The league has banned HGH (on very little evidence), allegedly to protect its players from the harm it allegedly does to their health. But the game of football itself is causing debilitating, potentially life-threatening injuries to players, and we think little of it. These injuries are the entirely predictable result of the slobber-knocking hits that make the game so much fun to watch, both live, and from the six different angles in various highlight packages on SportsCenter.
So we're okay with trusting players to take the risks to their health that come with actually playing football. But we draw the line at letting them use artificial drugs to help them recover more quickly from those injuries. Because that might be dangerous. Or it might benefit players who are using PED's for non-medical purposes.
As Farrey explains, the good news is that the underground labs are miles ahead of testing technology. So most of the league is getting treatment anyway. It's just too bad that players have to protect their own health on the sly, and that the people who treat them risk their careers, and possibly their freedom.