Stem cells have been causing controversy for years. Initially it started as scientists were first discovering the benefits of embryonic stem cells. The use of these stem cells were instantly attacked by pro-life groups, as one of America’s hottest issues became synonymous with the science. This has caused many biases and negative connotations to be associated with all types of stem cells, even though most are not embryonic. Due to this, stem cell treatment and research in America is estimated to be ten years behind that of other continents such as Europe and Asia. FDA regulations prohibit doctors from developing stem cell cultures that change the physical state of the cell, so doctors are limited to treatments such as platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injections. PRP injections work by isolating the relatively small number of stem cells, plasma, and platelets (which contain natural reparative engines) in a centrifuge and injecting them into the injured area. This procedure was most notably done with NFL player Hines Ward, who came back from a knee injury ahead of schedule and became Super Bowl MVP as his Pittsburgh Steelers topped the Arizona Cardinals. Here are five sports related injuries that can be treated with stem cell therapy.
Tennis and Golfer’s Elbow
Epicondylitis is an inflammation of the tendons used in throwing, racquet sports, and golf. When the inflammation is medial Epicondylitis is known as golfer’s elbow and when it is lateral it is known as tennis elbow. Such inflammation will lead to radiating pain in the forearm and wrist, pain when trying to maintain a fist or grip, and eventually an inability to hold objects at all. Chronic Epicondylitis was formerly treated with surgical procedures that were slow to recover from, but PRP injections coupled with stem cell therapies have shown drastically reduced recovery times.
Rotator Cuff Tears
A complete rotator cuff tear always requires surgery, but partial tears have shown incredible response to stem cell treatments. Most famously pitcher Bartolo Colon of the New York Yankees used stem cells for his rotator cuff injury. His 3.20 ERA compiled in 64 games spurred an investigation into exactly what treatment he received. No illegal substances were found, but soon there after all blood-spinning therapies like PRP injections were banned. However, continued research proved that stem cell treatments do not have the same performance enhancing qualities of steroids and such treatments were once again allowed.
The scourge of running backs, hamstring strain often keeps players out for weeks despite being a relatively mild injury. New research has shown that the slow recovery is due to low blood supply and oxygen in the injured area. Stem cell injections can greatly expedite recovery.
Technically known as patellar tendonitis or patellar tendonosis, are both knee pains, one is simply inflammation while the other is characterized by tearing. Formerly they were treated with rest, medication, and eventually exercise, but now stem cell therapy can be used. By taking stem cells from healthy adult bone marrow, normal tendon cartilage can be produced, eliminating pain and restoring functionality to the knee.
Characterized by inflammation amongst the connective tissues that run along the base of the foot, plantar fascitis leads to an inability to flex the toes and sharp pain in the heel and sole. Cortisone shots are most commonly used for this injury, but they simply ease the pain as the body tries to heal the injury. The problem with pain relief is that it often causes patients to continue to inflame injuries, leading to longer recovery times and more cortisone shots (which can be quite damaging when overused). Stem cell and PRP injections soothe pain while fostering tissue regeneration.