Athletic activities present the possibility of injury. When athletes face joint, tendon, or muscle damage, they need effective treatments to allow them to become active again. So do athletes get stem cell injections?
For many types of injuries, traditional medical approaches include surgery. However, surgeries often entail long recovery times, painful procedures, and scarring. Some athletes, such as Major League Baseball pitcher Max Scherzer, have undergone stem cell injections as an alternative.
Stem Cell Therapies for Athletic Injuries
Max Scherzer is a pitcher for the Washington Nationals. Recently, Scherzer sustained a back injury that prevented him from playing in several games.
He is the latest of professional athletes to use stem cell injections as a treatment for sports injuries. Many athletes have reported significant improvements in their condition following these innovative therapies.
Understanding Stem Cells
Stem cells are a type of simple cell. They are found in many different tissues in the human body. The body uses these cells to heal from injuries and accidents. When they are concentrated and injected into an injured area of the body, stem cells have the potential to assist with recovery.
Stem cell injections help to expedite the body’s natural healing processes. These treatments may help to repair tendons, ligaments, and cartilage. In doing so, they represent an invaluable approach for athletic injuries.
Stem Cell Treatments for Athletes
Most injured athletes have the same goal: to recover as quickly as possible. While this goal makes sense from a career perspective, reaching a full recovery is crucial. When they return to the game, they can feel confident that their bodies are in good working order. Full recoveries also prevent potential future injuries.
Some evidence suggests that injections of concentrated stem cells can help joints and muscles to fully recover faster. Innovative treatments, including stem cell injections, can allow athletes to regenerate new functional tissue. Oftentimes, stem cell therapies are applied in conjunction with more traditional medical approaches. These include:
Many athletes, like Scherzer, have experienced the benefits of stem cell treatments for athletic injuries.
Noninvasive and the Beneficial Potential
Beyond acute injuries, stem cell treatments can be used to potentially treat long-lasting pain in athletes. Whether the pain is caused by a single event or a chronic condition, stem cell treatments have the potential to help patients regenerate tissue and heal naturally. Stem cell injections offer athletes a very short recovery time. Typically, patients recover in three to four days.
When performed correctly and by an experienced board-certified provider, these injections present almost no risks of complications or infections. For athletes, the noninvasive nature of stem cell therapies and quick recovery times are invaluable. If you would like to learn more or schedule an appointment contact a care coordinator today!
Stretching is often touted as an important part of a well-rounded exercise program. Yet, there’s a lot of misinformation that circulates about the practice. For instance, you may have heard:
You won’t benefit unless you hold a stretch for a while.
You shouldn’t bounce while stretching, or you could tear a muscle.
If you fail to stretch before a workout, you’ll injure yourself.
These are actually myths, and in fact, you may wonder whether you really need to stretch at all.
Stretching: The True Story
According to the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), you should be stretching major muscle groups at least twice a week for 60 seconds per exercise. Stretching can help you stay flexible, supporting better mobility not only now but later in life, too.
For instance, if your back is stiff and sore from staying at your desk during the workday, a stretch such as a cat/cow (getting on all fours then slowly arching and curving your back upwards) can help to reverse some of the effects of staying seated for so long.
With that said, you don’t have to stretch for long periods of time just to get the benefits. Static stretches are meant to last 15 to 30 seconds, while dynamic stretches (in which you move through the stretches) are effective too—especially when completed as part of a warmup routine. Static stretching before a workout has not been shown to prevent injury, enhance performance, or reduce post-workout muscle soreness. Static stretches might even weaken performance because they can tire your muscles. On the other hand, dynamic stretches such as leg swings and walking lunges could help warm the body up before exercise.
Static stretches should therefore be reserved for post-workout. You’ll be more flexible since you’ve been moving your muscles and joints consistently. With that said, if you enjoy doing stretches other times throughout the day—besides when you normally do your workout—there’s no harm in working them in when it’s most convenient for you.
Traumatic brain injuries (TBI) occur from an outside force, and are commonly caused by sports injuries and car accidents. In many cases, symptoms can improve over time with the help of therapy. In some cases, however, it’s possible for symptoms to worsen over time. Here’s a closer look at why some cases improve and others appear to decline.
Secondary Brain Injury: In certain patients, complications develop after the initial injury, such as an infection or hematoma. The injury may also cut off blood to the brain, causing brain cells to die. The effects of these secondary brain injuries may not appear right away, which is why some patients’ symptoms seem to worsen over time.
Chemical Events: A brain injury can also trigger chemical changes which lead to worsening symptoms. For instance, the patient may develop an abundance of neurotransmitters, causing brain cells to become overstimulated and eventually die off.
Failure to Receive Treatment: Lastly, if a patient fails to receive proper treatment to facilitate healing following their brain injury, their symptoms are likely to worsen.
How to Minimize the Risk of Worsening Symptoms
Experts don’t know why symptoms worsen in some TBI cases and not others, but there are still factors within your control that can promote optimal outcomes. Here are a few options to consider.
Many people recovering from TBI need a combination of physical, speech, and occupational therapy. These rehabilitative programs help you rebuild physical strength, support blood flow to the brain, sharpen your mental skills, and reestablish your daily routine. Most importantly, they keep the brain and body active and can help prevent worsening symptoms.
Keep Your Brain Stimulated
Your brain is a muscle that can benefit from regular exercise. If there’s a type of puzzle you enjoy, such as sudoku or crosswords, try doing some during your downtime. You might also consider music or art therapy to engage your brain. Stimulating your brain encourages it to produce neuropathic growth factors, which kickstart the development of brain cells. Of course, you’ll want to follow your practitioners’ recommendations and avoid overstimulation during early recovery.
Engage Your Neuroplasticity
Neuroplasticity is the mechanism the brain uses to create neural pathways which allow healthy brain tissue to take on functions the damaged portions can no longer accommodate. Repetition is one of the simplest yet most effective ways to engage neuroplasticity. Thus, if there’s a skill you want to remaster, you’ll need to practice it often. Over time, it will start to become easier.
TBI recovery can be frustrating, especially if you’ve reached a plateau. Support groups are available to encourage you to overcome plateaus and discuss the ups and downs with first-hand knowledge. Whether you choose to join an online community or meet with a group in person, you may find that sharing your experiences in a supportive setting is a great outlet for the emotional and mental challenges that come with recovery.
Although it’s impossible to say for sure whether someone’s TBI symptoms will worsen or improve with time, the steps above won’t hurt in either case. By staying mentally and physically active and pursuing treatments such as therapy, individuals who have experienced brain injuries can support the best possible outcomes in their recovery. Patients are discovering the alternative option of stem cell therapy to help manage symptoms and assist in the healing process. In particular, stem cells can slow or halt further brain damage and promote healing by reducing inflammation and achieving a tissue-protective effect. If you would like to learn more then contact us today to speak with a care coordinator.
Recent breakthroughs in the field of regenerative medicine continue to support the tremendous healing potential of stem cell therapy. Until a few years ago, stem cell research was limited to only what could be gathered from the research gathered from embryonic stem cells; this research was limited by the well-documented ethical concerns surrounding the practice of harvesting stem cells from embryonic sources.
Fortunately, alternative – and less controversial – sources of stem cells, harvested primarily from autologous bone marrow and adipose tissue have demonstrated promise in treating many diseases ranging from autoimmune conditions to myocardial infarctions.
Considering this, the ability of adult stem cells to undergo division and multipotent differentiation has garnered the attention of spinal surgeons and specialists around the world, specifically for the potential benefits of these stem cells in the treatment of a variety of spine issues related to neural damage, muscle trauma, disk degeneration as well as it potential in supporting bone and spine fusion.
Stem Cells in Spine Surgery
Although the rate of spinal surgery, and specifically lumbar, cervical and thoracolumbar fusions, has continued to rapidly increase over the last 20 year, there has not yet been a breakthrough in surgical technology that has consistently demonstrated the ability to reduce reoperation rates associated with these procedures; additionally, these procedures have demonstrated little success in reducing the issue of pseudoarthrosis in patients.
As a result, spinal surgeons have begun experimenting with using stem cells to support the process of bone growth and fusion. As stem cell research continued to evolve, the discoveries of the ability of mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) harvested from bone marrow, adipose tissue, and skeletal muscle differentiate when cultivated in the correct microenvironment has led to the realization that these stem cells demonstrated a significant effect of the process of spinal fusion.
Adding to the potential benefits of these stem cells are several animal model studies confirming the benefits of the much more available, and much easier harvested adipose-derived stem cell (ADSC). In fact, several of these animal studies have confirmed similar fusion results observed when comparing MSCs and ADSCs.
Stem Cells in Disc Regeneration
Changes occurring in the discs of the spine and specifically starting in the second decade of life, contribute to decreased disc height that contributes to the impingement of nerves and the development of lower back pain consistent with Degenerative Disc Disease.
Until recently, treatment of Degenerative Disc Disease was limited to conservative management techniques, including work and lifestyle modifications, physical therapy, medication, and epidural injections, or surgery in the form of disc replacement or spinal fusion.
Although realizing the actual effects of stem cells therapy for treating this condition has been limited in humans (primarily due to concerns associated with the potential for an immune reaction to allogeneic stem cells in humans), several animal studies have demonstrated decreased disc degeneration as well as significant improvement in height and hydration of previously damaged discs. In addition, small-scale studies in humans have demonstrated improvements in pain and disability within three months of stem cell treatment.
Considering this, Schroeder J et al. call for larger clinical trials designed to further explore the benefits associated with using stem cell therapy to treat Degenerative Disc Disease.
Stem Cells in Treatment of Spinal Cord Injury (SCI)
Spinal Cord Injury (SCI) resulting from damage to the spinal cord most often is the result of motor vehicle accidents, falls, or injuries occurring during sports, work, or in the home; currently, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that worldwide between 250,000 and 500,000 people suffer an SCI each year.
SCIs range in severity, but most often are accompanied by some degree of tissue damage and/or cell death. As a result, spine surgeons have been exploring the potential of stem cell transplantation with the hope of supporting functional recovery after an SCI is sustained.
There are several phases associated with SCI. Regardless of the specific phase associated with an SCI, scientists have realized that creating a microenvironment that enhances neuron and axon regeneration appears to be the most desirable outcome of stem cell therapy. It is hypothesized that this is best achieved by suppression of the inflammation that typically accompanies cell apoptosis and necrosis.
Although embryonic stem cells appear to provide greater differentiation than adult stem cells, the ethical concerns surrounding their use have limited further exploration of these potential benefits. However, to date, adult mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) used in the treatment of SCI have not demonstrated immunologic reactions and have demonstrated the potential to promote axonal regeneration, suppress demyelination, induce nerve regeneration, and induce nerve regeneration.
Unfortunately, the in vivo differentiation of MSCs into neuron-like cells has been documented to be inefficient, meaning that MSCS is currently not capable of directly repopulating or physically restoring the tissue damaged in SCI.
While there have since been studies exploring the transplantation of neural stem cells (NSC) that have demonstrated sensory and motor improvements after stem cell transplantation and when combined with other cell and growth factors, these improvements were not statistically significant. Considering this, the authors of this study indicate that it’s difficult to provide a definitive statement on the clinical potential of stem cell therapy for the treatment of SCI.
In conclusion, the authors point out that there are additional areas, including iatrogenic nerve and muscle injury resulting from spinal surgery, that have not yet been clinically addressed. The authors also point out that greater standardization of in vitro experimentation and animal models may aid in the speed of translation of stem cell therapy in spinal surgery.
Many exciting strides are being made in the field of regenerative medicine. With the goal of repairing healing tissue through regeneration, this branch of medicine uses various approaches to treat chronic illnesses, address injuries, and promote overall wellness. Here’s a look into some emerging treatment options.
Also known as proliferation therapy or regenerative injection therapy, prolotherapy is a complementary approach used to treat joint and muscle pain. It works by injecting an irritant to the affected area, such as a tendon or ligament, to spur connective tissue growth. The irritant is typically a sugar solution, which triggers the connective tissue to grow and promote healing. Study results have been mixed and research into the treatment is ongoing. For instance, people with osteoarthritis in the knee saw significant improvements after receiving prolotherapy injections, but studies have been small thus far.
Prolozone combines neural therapy, prolotherapy, and ozone therapy by injecting anti-inflammatory medications, ozone, vitamins and minerals, and other proliferative agents to promote healing. It’s believed the injected nutrients could bypass the body’s inflammatory response, thus enabling healing without added inflammation. Noticeable improvements have been reported by patients with osteoarthritis, though as with prolotherapy, most experts agree further research is needed to fully document the treatment’s effects. Other conditions that could respond well to prolozone may include rotator cuff injuries, sciatica, sports injuries, and chronic back pain, among others.
Platelet rich plasma (PRP) leverages the healing properties within a patient’s own blood, which is put through a centrifuge to isolate the plasma. PRP is concentrated and has growth factors that can help promote healing when re-injected into areas of tissue damage. This alternative option can help manage the symptoms of joint and musculoskeletal pain and can also be used in conjunction with stem cell therapy to drive optimal outcomes.
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