Thursday, July 20, 2006

Baseball's `Rodeo' Balm

Baseball's `Rodeo' Balm Gives Pitchers Homespun Blister Remedy
July 14 (Bloomberg) -- Back in his days as a rodeo cowboy, Los Angeles Dodgers trainer Stan Johnston mixed some items in his medicine chest and came up with a balm that helped heal the burns and blisters on his hands from riding bulls and roping steers.

He kept the recipe, and now ``Stan's Rodeo Ointment'' mends professional athletes. Dodgers pitcher Derek Lowe, whose blisters would cause him to throw blood-stained baseballs when he was with the Boston Red Sox, says the black, tarry goo solved his chronic problem.

``It saved me from just having to make it through a game,'' Lowe, 33, said in an interview. ``Now talent can dictate a game again, not how long you can hold on and endure the pain.''
Johnston, who was a National League trainer at Major League Baseball's All-Star Game on July 11, has applied for a patent on his potion -- a combination of Polymyxin B Suflate and other ingredients. He says he's aiming to convince a pharmaceutical company to sell it as an over-the-counter medication.

``It heals things faster, any kinds of cuts, blisters, abrasions,'' Johnston, 46, said in an interview.
He already has believers. Most other Major League Baseball teams use it, along with the Houston Texans of the National Football League and the University of South Carolina football team. He said he expects to receive a patent July 20.

$35 a Tube

For now, he gets it made by SportPharm, a pharmacy based in Torrance, California, that supplies sports teams. It costs $35 for a 30-gram (1-ounce) tube, according to SportPharm President Robert Nickell.

The ointment is excluded from the requirement for U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval because it's compounded by a pharmacy with substances that already have passed the agency's standards, said SportPharm's head pharmacist, Mike Pavlovich.

Johnston concocted the formula during his years in professional rodeo from 1974-1983. No ordinary cowboy, he had a bachelor's degree in sports medicine from Western Montana College in Dillon, which he attended on a rodeo scholarship. After he left the rodeo, he earned a master's degree in the field from Montana State University in Bozeman in 1985.

After suffering cuts and burns in the rodeo, Johnston used his expertise and combined Polymyxin B Suflate, Bacitracin Zinc and Povidone-Iodine, and applied it to his hands to toughen the skin.

`Bit of Force'

``The pressure of the rope and heat from the rope would tear off the skin on my riding hand through my leather glove,'' Johnston said. ``You are riding a 1,600-, 1,800-pound animal. It would put a little bit of force on your hands.''

Johnston began using the substance on baseball players when he joined the Dodgers as a trainer in the team's minor-league system in 1985. As players moved to other organizations, word spread.

South Carolina athletic trainer Rod Walters orders about 10 tubes a year for the football team and uses it to heal blisters on players' feet and quarterbacks' fingers.

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