Hyperbaric Patients Get a Breath of Fresh Air

Hyperbaric Patients Get a Breath of Fresh Air
Hyperbaric chambers such as this one allow patients to breathe in high-pressure oxygen to help with a variety of ailments. (Photo: Chris McGathey)

Basketball injuries might not vanish into thin air, but more top-level athletes are giving it a try than ever before.

That’s why former Dallas Mavericks guard Jason Kidd sometimes visited Texas Sports Hyperbarics after a long road trip. Or why former Texas Rangers slugger Josh Hamilton did the same to ease the aches and pains during a lengthy season.

They come to spend an hour or two relaxing in a hyperbaric chamber, a high-pressure oxygen tube that’s been proven to aid in everything from the care of bruises and wounds to therapy for stroke victims.

“The availability of single-chamber, hyperbaric oxygen therapy has revolutionized my sports medicine practice,” said Dr. T.O. Souryal, a Highland Park resident and team physician for the Mavericks. “With professional athletes, we often use hyperbaric oxygen treatments for recovery after strenuous exercise such as back-to-back games, playoffs, and long-distance weekend competitions.”

Souryal said he also uses HBO in the days after surgery on athletes to accelerate healing, bruising, and swelling, and allow for earlier rehabilitation and recovery.

Such was the case with Caron Butler, who tore a tendon in his knee midway through the Mavericks’ championship season in 2011. Following surgery, the standout guard took 30 minutes of oxygen about five times each week as part of his therapy, allowing him to return to practice before the end of the season (he was not cleared to play), much sooner than originally anticipated.

“They’ll have less pain medication and they’ll be in rehab faster,” said Mary Marchbanks, president and chief executive officer of Texas Sports Hyperbarics. “It will help them recover faster and more completely.”

The therapeutic effectiveness of hyperbaric chambers in sports medicine is what prompted Marchbanks and her partners to change course when opening of the Snider Plaza practice more than four years ago. They originally intended to target primarily Alzheimer’s patients and wound care.

“We did open it with athletes in mind. We certainly market to them,” Marchbanks said. “There wasn’t another clinic like ours around here.”

Although athletes remain about 40 percent of the patient base — covering a variety of sports both amateur and professional — the office helps with the treatment of diabetic wounds, brain injuries, Lyme disease, and plenty in between.

Marchbanks said oxygen is a natural healing element that increases stem cells, expands blood vessels and capillaries, and kills off bacteria in bones and soft tissue. It also helps to reduce swelling and inflammation.

Hyperbaric medicine dates back almost a century as a method of speeding nitrogen removal from divers with the bends. However, its widespread acceptance and approval for insurance purposes has been much more gradual.

The office has two solo chambers, each of which allows patients to breathe pure oxygen at a pressure equivalent to about 30-50 feet below sea level. Because of the conditions, and the potential to overdose if the time is not regulated, such treatment requires a doctor’s approval.

“It is a drug in the doses that we give it to you,” Marchbanks said, “which is why the doctors write a prescription for it.”

Marchbanks said the company plans to open a second HBO facility in Plano this fall under a different name.

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