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Possible Link Between Basketball Player's Seizure and Herbal SupplementPossible Link Between Basketball Player's Seizure and Herbal Supplement

December 28, 1999

2 Min Read
Possible Link Between Basketball Player's Seizure and Herbal Supplement

PHOENIX--A seizure suffered by Phoenix Suns forward Tom Gugliotta following a Dec. 17 game in Portland, Ore. could have been the result of his ingestion of an herbal supplement, according to team physicians. Gugliotta suddenly fell into a seizure shortly after boarding the team bus following the Friday night game against the Trailblazers. Emergency personnel from a Portland hospital noted that his breathing had stopped, but his heart never failed. Routine tests, including CAT scans, EKGs and other lab tests turned in normal results. Speculation turned to a gamma butyrolactone (GBL) supplement the Suns player ingested shortly before boarding the team bus.

Marketed as a sleep potion and a post-workout relaxation aid, the supplement has come under the fire of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as well as various local law enforcement agencies across the country. Previous controversy, including a 1998 New Year's Eve incident in San Francisco, involved the product's role as a party and date rape drug. Marketed under many brand names, such as Blue Nitro and Verve, and also known as furanone di-hydro, this product was subject to an FDA warning against use and a call for a voluntarily recall.

"Internist Craig Phelps, team nutritionist Doug Grant and myself have been doing a lot of research, and while furanone is highly suspect, we can't assume anything," said Richard Emerson, team physician. "There is a family history of seizure as well."

The story ran on the front page of the Arizona Republic newspaper, which linked the incident to an earlier report of a Peoria, Ariz. boy who suffered a nearly fatal collapse some time after taking the supplement. The boy also had to be resuscitated by paramedics. The newspaper was quick to run a story on Dec. 28 about the dangers of "unregulated" herbal supplements taken by athletes looking for a competitive edge. A bulk of the concern for safety centered on the vulnerability of teenage athletes, who are reportedly susceptible to marketing involving well known athletes. Teenage mass production of hormones was also noted as a complicating factor in herbal supplementation by adolescents.

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