You’ve probably heard of stem cell therapy. But did you know that it’s an option that’s becoming more widely available to people with diverse medical needs? This cutting-edge technology uses adult stem cells to encourage healing by repairing or replacing damaged cells at the site of illness or injury.
Many of the most notable examples of stem cell therapy come from professional athletes, who are able to get early access to innovative sports medicine. Additionally, stem cell therapy is often a good option for the particular kinds of problems and injuries that athletes are likely to face. For example, injuries to the knee can be very difficult to treat because of the nature of the cartilage and tissue involved—the body rarely replaces knee cartilage that is damaged or lost. With stem cell therapy, doctors hope to achieve some natural repair of the damaged tissue. In fact, there is optimism among some physicians that stem cell therapy may one day make knee replacement surgery a thing of the past.
Stem cell therapy came into the spotlight when Peyton Manning, former quarterback for the Colts and Broncos, pursued this as a treatment option for a serious neck injury in 2006. At the time, because the treatment was considered experimental, Manning had to travel to Europe for treatment. Afterwards he was able to return to the game and continued to play for several years before retiring after winning last year’s Super Bowl. Stem cell therapy is particularly promising for neck injuries because it can be difficult to treat injury to this delicate area of the body.
It’s worth noting that Manning is one of hundreds of NFL players to use stem cell therapy, according to an article in Muscle and Medicine. Until recently, most players were forced to travel outside the country to seek out regenerative therapy because of the lack of availability in the United States. Today, that’s changed, as these treatments are more widely available. These regenerative procedures are recognized by the NFL as medical treatment (rather than an athletic enhancement), and are recommended to many athletes by sports doctors, including the Steelers’ orthopedic surgeon. It’s not just football players, too. Tennis star Rafael Nadal opted to use stem cell therapy for a 2014 back injury because he had had previous success with using stem cells on a knee injury. Lakers legend Kobe Bryant also used regenerative treatment, traveling to Germany in 2011 for an injured knee.
Today, stem cell therapies have become more widely available in the United States, and are not just for professional athletes or the super wealthy. In fact, at the Spine Institute Northwest we have treated many of our patients with regenerative therapies including stem cell injections. These are used in conjunction with the minimally invasive procedures that we offer. To learn more, call us at 206-496-0630 and speak with one of our patient advocates.
Photo credits: Peyton Manning (CC BY-SA 2.0) by Jeffrey Beall; Rafael Nadal (CC BY 2.0) by Brett Marlow Melbourne Australia