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East or West, Yao's fans split on what's best
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"In many respects, TCM treatment of bone fractures, especially wrist fractures and related problems involving soft tissue, has achieved results Western medicine has been unable to accomplish," Yi said.

"At the same time, once the surgery is done, there are not as many ways offered by Western medicine as TCM, to speed the recovery process," Yi said.

Major TCM methods commonly used in such instances include herbal medicines, herbal plasters, acupuncture and massage.

"Studies have shown that TCM treatment methods promote blood circulation and speed up the healing process of bones," Yi said.

"The methods speed up production of bone cells increase the amount of BMP (bone morphogenetic protein), and boost the formation of crucial microelements such as calcium, phosphorous, cuprum and zinc," Yi said.

"Oral herbal medicines like Sanchi and Yunnan Baiyao have been proven to improve blood circulation at body parts affected by bone injuries," Liu said.

"Meanwhile, such volatilizing herbs as Bingpian (borneol) and Shexiang (musk) help a great deal in reducing extravasated blood."

Zhang Shiming, a TCM expert who took part in a top-level medical consultation on Feb 29 in Beijing on Yao's case, told Chinese media that his stress fracture was on the navicular of his left foot.

"If it is indeed the navicular that is involved in the injury, then people have reason to worry," Yi said.

"The navicular is the part of foot that connects the shankbone with the calcaneus. It has bone joints on three parts and is only nourished by blood from two sides. It is one of four bones in the body that are considered most difficult to heal from a fracture. Besides, using a bone screw usually further undermines proper blood supply to the bone."

For bone fractures that do not involve any bone shifting, like in Yao's case, Yi said that his department, as well as many other hospitals here, would usually not use surgery. Instead, plasterboards and plaster casts would be used to immobilize the foot from the outside, and the above-mentioned herbal medicines and methods would be applied. Recovery with those treatment methods usually takes three months to half a year.

Some Chinese sports doctors, however, believe Western medicine is a better choice in Yao's case.

"We tend to use Western medicine when athletes break their bones," Yan Hui, a doctor with the national speed skating team, said.

"TCM is a very good method for rehabilitation, but Western medicine is more efficient in surgeries for athletes."

Shuang Yin, team doctor of the Beijing Guo'an soccer club, echoed Yan's view.

"I think it is the right decision for Yao to undergo surgery in Houston," Shuang told Beijing Television.

"Everybody knows Houston is a perfect place for athletes' rehabilitation, given its well-known background in Western medicine.

"It is also a good choice for him to try some TCM in his three-month rehab, but the surgery in Houston must form the basis of the treatment, for sure."

(China Daily March 21, 2008)

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