I have been cut from the varsity basketball team, I am a good player and can shoot just as well if not better than any other of the guys. But I am also 5' 5" and 16 years old, while the other guys are all at least 6' 1". My coach told me I was hurting the team because against very big players I was getting many of my shots blocked and could not play very good defense because I am too short to defend against the huge guys. I have heard of pills like HGH and others that release growth hormones to help you grow taller. If I am to have a chance to take my game to the next level I need to grow a lot, no colleges take short guys anymore. Basketball is my life could you please tell me if these really work?
Human growth hormone (HGH) is only legal when prescribed by a doctor for specific medical conditions. Doctors prescribe HGH for people whose bodies don't naturally make enough growth hormone, a condition known as growth hormone deficiency. Human growth hormones are only available as injections that need to be administered by a medical professional. In the situations where doctors use HGH to treat a case of growth hormone deficiency, it is generally safe and effective, with relatively few side effects. However using Human growth hormones for non-medically approved circumstances can be very dangerous. There are alarming national trends that show show an increase in growth hormones being abused as an athletic supplement even though there is no conclusive evidence that it improves an athlete’s performance. According to the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre has published a Fact sheet highlighting the risks when HGH is misused:
Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar, risk of diabetic coma)
Glucose intolerance/ diabetes mellitus (high blood sugar)
Inadequate thyroid function
Acromegaly (irreversible) an overgrowth of bone and connective tissue that leads to a change in facial appearance, such as a protruding jaw and eyebrow bones. Acromegaly can also lead to abnormal growth of the hands and feet, and a shortened life expectancy
Heart enlargement (may be irreversible)
High blood pressure
Premature ageing and death (especially in the case of acromegaly)
Thickening of the skin
Abnormal hair growth
Andre the Giant was a famous professional wrestler who suffered from gigantism, or excessive amounts of growth hormone. He had many of these health problems which contributed to his early death.
Aside from these direct negative side effects of HGH there are some other things to consider. Any type of HGH that is not obtained by a prescription is not regulated by the government and could be made up of just about anything. The products you see advertised online as ‘growth hormone,” “growth stimulators,” and “growth factors” claim to be growth hormones but they are more likely to be amino acids which don’t significantly increase growth hormone levels in your body, inert substances with no benefit at all, or they could even be black market substances that are tainted and dangerous. Because growth hormones have to be injected to have any effect you run the risk of transmission of blood-borne viruses (such as hepatitis or HIV). In addition to the danger there is a significant cost associated with the drug. HGH is about $5,000 for a month's prescription, meaning that the street value for just a month could run anywhere from $5,000–$10,000.
So to answer your question, if you suffer from a human growth deficiency then HGH could be beneficial. If you are just trying to make yourself taller, save your money, it doesn’t work. Don’t risk permanent damage to your growing body for something that poses a significant threat to your health and costs a fortune on the black market and really has very little upside. In a nutshell, the risks really aren’t worth the benefit unless you have a growth hormone deficiency.
It is clear from your letter that you have a love for basketball and really want to improve your game but there are much safer and more effective ways to do so. Larry Bird used to take 1,000 shots a day when he was a young man growing up so he could be a sharpshooter on the court. While basketball is geared towards taller players, there are many players at all levels who were considered small but were able to be great players. The reigning NBA dunking champ is Nate Robinson, a 5’9” guard with the New York Knicks and there is a long list of players who achieved great success in high school, college, and the pros even though they weren’t tall. While shorter players may have some competitive disadvantages, developing your speed, quickness, coordination and shooting and ball handling skills will go a long way to helping you achieve your goals. Successful athletes share many of the same qualities, desire, determination and a willingness to work hard. You sound like you might have many of the same traits.
One thing that is certain is that your height is genetically determined, encoded in your DNA, and there is nothing you can do to alter that at this point. If you think that there may something abnormal about your lack of height then it would be a good idea to see your doctor and get some medical guidance. Your doctor may be able to determine if there is anything interfering with your growth. Someone with a growth hormone deficiency should be treated much differently than someone who is ‘vertically challenged’ as a result of their genetic make-up. When taken the right way for the right reasons, growth hormone can be safe and effective. When taken for the wrong reasons and without proper medical supervision, the multiple, serious and permanent risks far outweigh any real or hoped-for benefits.
Here is one last thing to think about. Michael Jordan tried out for the varsity high school basketball team during his sophomore year, but at 5'11” he was considered too short to play. Michael worked hard and became an outstanding player on the junior varsity team. He continued to work hard (also growing 4 inches) and he became a varsity player his junior year. The rest is history. If Michael Jordan had listened to his coach the world would have been deprived of one of the greatest players to ever play the game of basketball.