by Raj N. Sureja, MD
Athletes depend on their body to perform. With increased physical activity and contact comes a higher risk for injury, which means less time out on the field and more time on the sidelines. Recovery times for major injuries can be long, and the side effects of surgery can impact an athlete’s physical abilities in the long term. Typical conservative treatments for injuries of the muscles, tendons, and ligaments have been designed to manage pain, but not to ultimately fix the problem. One of the latest medical advancements, stem cell therapy, is changing how athletes are being treated to give more immediate relief and actual healing to sports injuries and less waiting time to get back into the game.
Stem cell therapy mimics the body’s natural healing process. The general idea behind this type of treatment is harvesting cells from the individual’s bone marrow and using them to regenerate tissue that could not redevelop on its own. Once the stem cells are taken from the body and spun into concentrate, they are injected back into the body at the place of injury. They then lock onto DNA and are able to reproduce into the type of cell needed to treat the damage, whether that be ligament, tendon, cartilage, or muscle tissue.
One of the major advantages of stem cell injections is that patient rejection is extremely rare. As an athlete, there would be minimal risk to try stem cell therapy versus undergoing surgery. From the injections that have been performed, no adverse side effects have been found. Stem cells also are made up of growth factors that stimulate tissue growth when injected, which could cut the recovery time from a surgery in half for an athletic injury. They contain hyaluronic acid, which lubricates joints and tendons, and allows for earlier restoration of mobility and less pain from the injury.
Stem cell therapy injections can treat a multitude of injuries, such as; muscle sprains and strains, tendon inflammation, and fractures. For example, when an athlete tears the meniscus in the knee, the primary treatment up to this point has been to cut the torn tissue out completely. With a stem cell injection, the tissue can potentially be renewed to its original state before the injury and with more immediate relief than surgery. An injury, such as a twisted ankle, may not fully heal when allowed to heal on its own, but this therapy may be able to fully restore the area. Stem cell therapy could also offer the potential in reduction for athletic re-injury as research advances in the field.
Stem cell therapy is a huge game changer in the world of athletics, as it is the most cutting-edge treatment method available for sports injuries. The physicians of Orthopaedic and Spine Center are excited to offer patients stem cell therapy. Please contact myself or Dr. Mark McFarland to schedule a consultation to see if stem cell therapy is the right option for you.
Raj N. Sureja, MD is a Fellowship-trained, Board-Certified, Interventional Pain Management Specialist who practices at Orthopaedic and Spine Center in Newport News, VA. Dr. Sureja has been named a “Top Doc” in a physician survey, sponsored by Hampton Roads Magazine for 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015. For more information on OSC or Dr. Sureja, please go to www.osc-ortho.com