DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Believed to promote faster healing, hyperbaric oxygen therapy has been used for decades in hospital burn units. Now a new Dallas clinic is using it to treat everything from sports injuries to autism.
When Kimberly Meyers broke her arm last October, the high school volleyball player found herself on the bench. “I shattered my radius in three different places,” she said. “He told me that worst case I wouldn’t play for 6-9 months, with the possibility of never playing again.”
Two and a half months after the injury, Meyers was back on the court, due in part, she says, to hyperbaric oxygen therapy. “The doctor was pretty amazed,” Meyers said of her recovery. “It [the hyperbaric therapy] didn’t feel like it was going to make a huge difference, but it did.”
Meyers is one of a growing number of high school athletes using hyperbaric treatment to speed healing. David Allen, a Highland Park Junior basketball player is another. “I had torn my meniscus playing, just overdid it,” said Allen, who was back on the basketball court three weeks after surgery. “It just makes the [recovery] process a lot faster.”
“Hyperbarics have proven over 60 years that it reduces inflammation and accelerates healing,” explained Mary Marchbanks, President of Texas Sports Hyperbarics in Dallas. “It’s a non-invasive solution for providing support for the body’s own healing mechanisms.”
Dr. Harry Meyers is the medical director at Texas Sports Hyperbarics. “Primarily we’re treating muscle injuries, soft-tissue injuries, fractures, patients with cartilage injuries.”
Dr. Meyers isn’t just the medical director; he’s Kimberly’s father and believes so strongly in the therapy’s benefits that he treated his own daughter. “It causes the oxygen to be forced into your cells, into your bloodstream, into your plasma. There are tissues in your body that are not well supplied with blood vessels,” he explained, “by giving somebody hyperbaric oxygen you promote faster healing, particularly in tissues that otherwise may not heal.”
Texas Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton used a hyperbaric oxygen chamber last season when he cracked his ribs. “I probably went 6-7 times and really felt a difference when I was in there as far as breathing,” Hamilton said. “I really think it helped me get back fast for playoffs.”
The FDA-approved single-person chambers pressurize to an equivalent of 33 feet below sea level and use 100 percent oxygen.
“When you breath 100 percent oxygen at increased pressure, it turns into solution,” said Marchbanks.
The treatments cause body fluids to become super-saturated with oxygen, which results in reduced inflammation and faster healing.
The therapy costs about $250 a session and insurance doesn’t cover it, except for certain conditions, like severe burns and wounds that won’t heal.
Texas Sports Hyperbarics treats only the conditions that insurance doesn’t cover, such as sports injuries. They also have patients who use it to treat autism, and cerebral palsy. Other patients there even use the treatment to help with plastic surgery recovery.
“In anything there is always a cost-benefit analysis,” Dr. Meyers said, “If you have someone with a broken bone or an injury that is going to heal, is it worth the money for the insurance to pay additional to have them heal in two months instead of three months?”
While the therapy is an out-of-pocket expense to those who want to heal fast, it’s a price they’re willing to pay.