Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Will Chinese Medicine Help Basketball Star Yao Ming?

The decision of NBA superstar Yao Ming to head to China to seek traditional Chinese medical treatment for his stress fracture has orthopedic physicians and traditional medicine experts at odds over whether the healing techniques will do any good.

Basketball star Yao Ming has returned to his home country of China, reportedly to seek traditional treatments for a stress fracture in his foot.
(ABC News Photo Illustration)

The 27-year-old, 7-foot-6 all-star center for the Houston Rockets was forced out of the season by a stress fracture in his left foot — specifically, a crack in the tarsal navicular bone, between the ankle joint and the middle of his foot.

Yao underwent surgery early last month when surgeons inserted a screw to stabilize the bone. Doctors involved with the surgery reported that the procedure was successful and that Yao would begin an aggressive rehabilitation program once he was up to it.

The surgery carries with it a normal downtime of four months. But it appears Yao is also looking to traditional Chinese medicine — a system that includes acupuncture and herbal remedies — to help speed his healing. On Friday, the Associated Press reported that Yao had arrived back in his home country to consult with the nation's top experts.

For the rest of the story and to read the differing opinions from medical experts click on the title of the article.

I think what is interesting here is the preliminary scientific research, the long empirical history of the use of traditional Chinese Medicine and the Western Doctor not knowing anything about it. This is a typical pattern. Plus think about this: Yao does not have anything to lose by doing TCM. He can do his rehab exercises anywhere. To spend a bit of time taking herbs, and getting acupuncture has very little downside. And of course following his own culture's medicine has the added benefit of a very strong placebo effect (not to mention home cooking). This is not to be discounted. If the normal recovery time is 4 months for his injury and he feels he can shorten that with TCM treatment, than that idea alone is very important. This is true in all human endeavors particularly medicine. It will be interesting to see in Yao's case if he is actually able to shorten his recovery time. Let's see what happens.