Depending on the injury, regenerative therapy may be the sole treatment, or it may be used in conjunction with other conventional treatments. For example, PRP can be used alone as a therapeutic injection or applied during cartilage regeneration surgery.
As the field of regenerative medicine advances, more people are turning to therapies that utilize biological substances, such as stem cells, to heal sports-related injuries faster. Now, regenerative medicine is available to everyone who suffers from these injuries, including people in Greater Lakeland, Florida, who are served by Novus Spine & Pain Center.
What is Regenerative Therapy for Sports and Athletic Injuries?
Regenerative Therapy takes advantage of the body’s natural ability to heal itself by using healthy regenerative cells found throughout the body. The treatment has the potential to accelerate the body’s natural healing process, repair damaged tissues, reduce pain, and improve function.
Regenerative therapy is the process of taking the body’s own cells and injecting them into an area of the body that has been injured or otherwise needs to heal. This treatment has given birth to the term orthobiologics, which is the use of high concentrations of biological substances, such as platelet-rich plasma (PRP) or stem cells, to help speed the healing process for musculoskeletal injuries.
Laboratory and clinical research have found it is possible to use platelet-rich plasma (PRP) and adult stem cells to heal (and even regenerate) lost, damaged, or aging tissue. In many cases, the therapy provides patients an alternative to surgery. In sports medicine, regenerative therapies are beneficial for treating both acute, chronic, and common conditions that result from overuse.
Stem cell therapy and PRP have benefits over cortisone injections. Administering a cortisone injection basically shuts down all cellular activity, which causes inflammation to decrease. Cortisone, except for isolated circumstances, is a stop-gap measure that can also affect the body’s ability to sense pain which can lead to further injury.
Who Has Used Regenerative Therapy for Sports & Athletic Injuries?
Many prominent sports personalities have made the headlines for using Stem Cell Therapy or Platelet-Rich Plasma (PRP) treatments.
In 2008, Tiger Woods received platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy to help him recover from knee surgery. In 2011, 4-time NFL MVP, Peyton Manning had Stem Cell Treatment after two surgeries on his neck did not help address a painful bulging disk. New York Yankees’ pitcher, Bartolo Colon, underwent Stem Cell Therapy in 2012 to help repair ligament damage and a torn rotator cuff. In 2014, New York Jet’s running back, Chris Johnson, tore the meniscus in his left knee and his own stem cells were transplanted back into the knee joint. Also in 2014, tennis great, Rafael Nadal, received stem cell treatment on his ailing back.
These are just a few of the athletes who have received treatment for injuries that would have sidelined them for months. Instead, they experienced faster recovery times, thanks to regenerative therapy.
Athletes of all skill levels can benefit from regenerative medicine therapies and treatments, from younger adults, active seniors, and baby boomers, to amateur and professional athletes.
What Types of Regenerative Therapy Treatments are Available for Sports & Athletic Injuries?
All regenerative therapy treatments are outpatient procedures; however, it may take more than one treatment to achieve optimal results. As with any medical treatment, results are not guaranteed.
#1 Stem Cell Treatments
A stem cell does not serve a specific bodily function, but it can develop into a cell that does, such as a cartilage cell or a tendon cell. Medical professionals theorize stem cells can transform to meet a medical need when placed in a specific environment. For example, stem cells that are injected into a damaged Achilles tendon develop into healthy Achilles tendon cells. Furthermore, the collection of the stem cells for treatment come from the patient’s fat, blood, or bone marrow.
#2 Platelet-Rich Plasma (PRP)
The patient’s blood is processed, often in a centrifuge, to create a concentrated solution of platelets and plasma to make PRP. The natural healing properties found in the blood’s platelets and plasma help facilitate healing and repair of the injury. PRP can also be injected or applied to an injured area during surgery.
PRP therapies vary, depending on factors such as differences in patients’ blood, the method of blood processing, and the addition of other substances, such as an anesthetic.
Inflammation increases blood flow and attracts other cells that can repair and heal damaged tissues; therefore, sports injuries usually cause inflammation. In some cases, the inflammation subsides before the injury is completely healed. When this occurs, a physician may use prolotherapy to increase inflammation to allow the body time to heal.
Prolotherapy includes an injection of an irritant into the injured area temporarily increases inflammation, which facilitates further healing. However, prolotherapy treatments are not considered regenerative therapy unless they include platelet-rich plasma (PRP) and/or stem cells.
How Are Regenerative Therapies Used?
Stem cell therapy is used to treat shoulder, knee, hip, and spine degeneration, in addition to soft tissue (muscle, tendon, ligament) and other bone-related injuries. Adult stem cells can treat many types of chronic pain and degeneration. Under the right conditions, stem cells hold the potential to regenerate damaged tissue.
The application of stem cells to an injured area may be by:
Injection. A physician may inject stem cells directly into the affected area, often using ultrasound or other medical imaging to help deliver the cells directly to the damaged tissue.
Direct surgical application. A surgeon may apply stem cells directly to the torn ligament, tendon, or bone for repair.
Stem-cell bearing sutures. A surgeon may stitch together a torn muscle, ligament, or tendon using a thread-like material coated with stem cells. (The sutures dissolves over time, and the body absorbs the stem cells.)
Soft tissue injuries are most responsive to PRP treatment. Some examples of these injuries include:
Joint pain resulting from inflammation after an acute injury.
Chronic degenerative joint disease.
Ligament and muscle injuries.
Tendonitis, such as tennis elbow and golfer’s elbow.
Partial tendon tears when caught early.
Tendonitis, such as Achilles tendonitis, patellar tendonitis in the knee, or tennis elbow are common overuse conditions that plague many athletes. Many of these injuries involve microscopic tearing and formation of scar tissue. It is often difficult for these tendon injuries to heal due to inadequate blood supply to the area. With PRP treatment, however, the concentrated platelet injection enhances the nutrients and growth factors in the injury which allow the body to heal itself.
Both research studies and clinical practice have shown PRP therapy to be very effective at relieving pain and returning patients to their normal lives. Ultrasound and MRI imaging show definitive tissue repair and healing following PRP therapy. Treating injured tissues before damage progresses and making the condition irreversible, can significantly reduce the need for surgery.
PRP therapy alone can be effective for acute sports injuries, but it is often not sufficient for treating chronic arthritic joint injuries and degenerative disc disease that cause lower back pain. Much more profound results (tissue regeneration and pain relief) are often seen when PRP is utilized in combination with the injection of stem cells. In many cases, both stem cells and PRP are used to treat an injury.
Is Regenerative Therapy an Alternative to Surgery?
Treatment for patients suffering from chronic musculoskeletal injuries traditionally involves arthroscopic surgery or joint replacement. These treatment options can often require months of rehabilitation to regain strength and mobility. There are also the typical surgical risks including complications from the anesthesia, blood transfusions, blood clots (deep vein thrombosis), slow healing, and even paralysis (possible with spinal surgery).
Most cases of stem cell and PRP treatments are successful and avoid the pain, disability, downtime, and the risks associated with major surgery. Regenerative Therapy does involve some soreness and bruising in the treated area; even so, there is minimal recovery from a stem cell or PRP treatment.
Stem cell treatment can be repeated in a joint, if necessary, to obtain optimal results where a second surgery may not always be possible. Additionally, undergoing regenerative therapy does not preclude a patient from future surgery in the area.
Finally, there have been no reports of serious adverse effects in the scientific literature when adult mesenchymal stem cells are used in these procedures. Novus Spine & Pain Center strives to provide the safest and most effective care for our patients. We have developed our Regenerative Therapy Program to give patients access to the latest treatment options with proven results.
Guidelines for Who Can Receive Stem Cell Therapy
Right now, there are no formal medical guidelines regarding who can receive stem cell therapy for sports injuries. The use of stem cells for treatment is up to patients and their doctor. Some physicians have specific criteria for recommending stem cell therapy or PRP treatments. The suitability of regenerative therapy is decided on a case-by-case basis after a thorough examination and medical history.
For professional athletes, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) regulations for regenerative therapy may or may not prohibit the use of stem cell therapy or PRP, depending on how the cellular material is manipulated or modified for use. Stem cell injectionsare prohibited if the product is modified in a way that can offer performance-enhancing benefits. WADA further clarifies that athletes are not permitted to use both normal and genetically modified cells in any way, if the process causes performance enhancement. Athletes should be aware that the use of stem cell products cannot justify a positive doping test, if any prohibited substances are identified in a sample.
Novus Spine & Pain Center
Novus Spine & Pain Center in Lakeland, Florida, specializes in Regenerative Therapy for sports and athletic injuries. By using a comprehensive approach and cutting-edge therapies, we work together with patients to restore function and regain an active lifestyle, while minimizing the need for opiates.
Our pain management doctors have access to the most advanced treatments including the newest stem cell injection procedures and PRP which reduce recovery time for sprains, torn ligaments, and bone and joint conditions. Procedures are minimally-invasive and are done in our offices with little to no downtime for the patient.