Why would the Bears and Urlacher gamble waiting for the last moments of training camp to clear out a joint that has been a nuisance since New Year's Day?
One source said Urlacher left sometime in May or early June to meet with a physician described as "that famous doctor everybody goes to," while the other source said the player opted for "non-invasive treatment" that he paid for himself.
Did Urlacher follow in the footsteps of the Lakers' Kobe Bryant, the Yankees' Alex Rodriguez, superagent Ari Emanuel (brother of Mayor Rahm Emanuel) and even the late Pope John Paul II by seeking help through biological medicine, specifically Regenokine injection therapy?
A Bears spokesman declined to confirm, deny
or steer "in one direction or another" when asked whether Urlacher had been to see the practice of German-based Dr. Peter Wehling, credited as the primary founder of Regenokine therapy, a process that has not been approved nationally by the Food and Drug Administration.
Urlacher declined comment when pressed on
the matter by a Tribune reporter.
Nobody ever has questioned Urlacher's passion for football. His weight-room workouts are legendary with fitness never a concern throughout his career, now entering its 13th NFL season.
In an interview with HBO's "Real Sports" that aired in January, Urlacher compared taking a pregame shot of the painkiller Toradol with getting a flu shot. He also told the program he would lie to team medical personnel rather than admit he suffered a concussion in order to stay on the field.
The Bears won't comment on the issue because it concerns the private business of a player seeking a medical opinion on his own. Another league source said there isn't even a mechanism in place for teams to give support or advice on the subject of Regenokine therapy because of liability issues resulting from not having FDA approval. Also, teams historically have been reluctant to draw attention to any potential division — no matter how small — in the way injuries are treated by the team versus a player's independent thinking.
Urlacher's reluctance to discuss the matter is difficult to pinpoint, but he does have a lot at stake. He is in the final year of his contract, scheduled to make $8 million this season, including a $500,000 workout bonus and $7.5 million in base pay. The Bears haven't stepped forward to give him an extension, understandable patience to see how things go before making an offer. Perhaps he feels bringing a linebacker's mentality to medical treatment might seem desperate to any future suitors. Maybe it's simply that the point is moot because he wound up getting his knee scoped anyway.
Regardless, the more you read about Regenokine therapy, the more you want to try it yourself, providing you can afford the five days the procedure takes and the roughly $7,500 per course for what many sportsmen consider a miracle cure.
As the New York Times has reported, "Wehling's practice has become almost a pilgrimage site for athletes trying to prolong careers that have tested the limits of their bodies." The treatment hasn't been approved by the FDA, according to a source familiar with the agency's thinking, because the FDA isn't crazy about the manipulation of blood product and wants more testing.
The Philadelphia Inquirer reported last week that recently traded NBA center Andrew Bynum of the 76ers is scheduled to go to Germany in early September for the procedure. But if testimony from the likes of Bryant, Grant Hill, golfers Vijay Singh and Fred Couples and actor Nick Nolte isn't enough, you have to love what Wehling wrote about his "first-generation" treatment of Pope John Paul II.
In his book "The End of Pain," co-written with Wehling's L.A.-based partner, Dr. Chris Renna, there is a fascinating account of visits with the pontiff at the Vatican. The Pope had a highly publicized battle with Parkinson's disease and a lesser-known but highly debilitating issue with osteoarthritis. Wehling writes of traveling to Rome and being whisked into the Pope's apartment. A devout Catholic whose great-uncle was the archbishop of Cologne, Wehling asked the Pope why he had sought Regenokine therapy and was told: "Because your treatment comes from God."
Wehling wrote: "He meant that Regenokine procedure uses the body's own healing forces instead of relying upon an extraneous element such as pharmaceutical drug or artificial joint."
Renna, who operates clinics in Santa Monica, Calif., and Dallas, adds a holistic lifestyle approach to the treatment that includes diet and exercise.
The Bears insist there was no new injury to Urlacher's knee in his six days of active participation in training camp. He passed a physical and a conditioning test before playing.
Wehling and Renna write in their book that the success rate in patients is around 70 percent. And there is different pathology with everyone who gets the treatment. Where Bryant had his left knee scoped in 2010 and described his problem as "bone on bone" before getting Regenokine injections in 2011, it was understood to be an arthritic condition.
Urlacher suffered a single traumatic event, the sprain of his medial collateral ligament and posterior cruciate ligament. Could it be that Regenokine injections don't work as well with the violent hits and sudden movement needed to play professional football? Wehling declined to be interviewed for this story, saying through an assistant that he was too busy with patients.
Business clearly is booming. Word has gotten out, whether a certain middle linebacker likes it or not.
Special contributor Mike Mulligan co-hosts "The Mully and Hanley Show" weekdays from 5 to 9 a.m. on WSCR-AM 670.