Sports Injuries: The Increased Role of Stem Cells in Treatment

40394354 - close-up of a soccer player icing knee with ice pack on fieldOver the last ten years, stem cells have evolved from an unknown scientific entity into the foundation of regenerative sports medicine treatments. More than ever before, doctors and scientists understand how stem cells can be utilized to treat sports injuries. From cartilage damage and tennis elbow to bone repair and torn ligaments, there’s an application of stem cell therapy for nearly any sports injury.

The Most Important Facts About Adult Stem Cells

Stem cells are cells found naturally in the body that are different from regular cells. Rather than existing for one specific purpose, like skin cells and blood cells, stem cells have the ability to differentiate into any type of cell in the body. They can regenerate as much as needed to either heal injured tissue or replace it altogether. Though stem cells exist in many forms, like from embryos and cord blood, orthopedic doctors prefer to use adult stem cells from bone marrow in order to heal sports injuries. Bone marrow’s stem cells are better suited for regenerating cartilage, ligaments, and tendons.

Using Stem Cell Therapy to Heal

Orthopedic doctors use stem cell therapy both on its own and in conjunction with necessary surgeries in order to help sports injuries heal. In a rotator cuff surgery, for example, an injection of stem cells will decrease pain and accelerate healing during and after the operation. Since the stem cells augment arthroscopic repair of torn rotator cuffs, patients are able to recover faster and regain their full range of motion and strength.

Stem cells are also very valuable in treating injuries that affect tendons, which are the long fibrous tissues that connect and carry force between muscles and bones. Repetitive use, like tennis and running athletes endure, can strain and damage tendons, making them too painful to use. Stem cells offer a non-surgical solution to this problem that no other medical application does.  Rather than merely covering the pain or offering a temporary solution, a simple injection of adult stem cells actually repair the damaged tendons entirely by stimulating tissue regeneration.

There are many applications of stem cells to resolve sports injuries, including cartilage problems, bone fractures, and more. As time goes on, more therapies will continue to be discovered to help athletes avoid surgery and maintain optimal health.

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