It certainly is no secret that growing numbers of professional athletes are looking at PRP and stem cell therapies as alternatives to surgery and long-term use of pain medications. This past spring alone, a considerable number of baseball pitchers were looking at alternative procedures to avoid Tommy John surgery. And now that football season is well underway, injured athletes have been turning to stem cell therapy to deal with their injuries.
While all of this is important to note, there is something even more important on the horizon. Even as you read this article, there is a stem cell lab in Florida making real plans to revolutionize sports medicine through stem cell treatments. The lab was recently profiled in a Sports Illustrated article written by Greg Bishop.
Bishop paid a visit to the Gulf Breeze lab to find out just what was going on there. The lab is located inside the Athletic Performance & Research Pavilion at the Andrews Institute, an unassuming looking medical facility located just outside Pensacola. What he learned about stem cell therapy and sports medicine may very well determine the future of how sports injuries are treated.
The Complex and Fascinating Stem Cell
Bishop began his article with a quick primer to explain what stem cells are and what they do. He wrote the following:
“At a basic level, stem cells respond to stress and heal injuries. They’re the key to the human body’s internal repair system. They replenish adult tissues. How they work is so complex that doctors aren’t even exactly sure…”
Bishop is absolutely right in saying that medical science doesn’t understand every little detail of how stem cells do what they do. But we do know enough, through observation and research, to be able to predict how stem cells will react in certain environments. So much so that doctors are already using stem cell therapy to treat certain kinds of sports injuries along with conditions like osteoarthritis and musculoskeletal damage.
What the Future Holds
None of this may seem all that exciting to you if you are detached somewhat from professional sports. If so, there are three things that might help you gain a better appreciation of what the future might hold. Those three things are:
- Faster Healing – Athletes who cannot play cannot do what they have been hired to. Stem cell therapy holds the promise of faster healing that gets athletes back into the competition sooner than they otherwise would. This benefits the athlete, his or her team, and the fans that pay to watch.
- Longer Careers – How many times has injury ended an athlete’s career? Far too many. Stem cell therapy could eventually make career ending injuries a thing of the past for a whole host of sports and athletes.
- Better Retirement – The most important aspect to the Florida research is how stem cell therapies can help athletes in their retirement years. Whether the general public knows it or not, professional athletes often suffer the most after they retire. If stem cell therapy can make their lives easier and more productive, it will be well worth all the effort going into research.
Apex Biologix, a Utah company that trains doctors in stem cell therapies, says that the applications for sports injuries are moving forward rather rapidly. Apex can easily see the day when they and others are routinely training the vast majority of sports medicine doctors because stem cell therapy is a mainstream treatment. That would certainly change the way we view and practice sports medicine around the world.