The next big thing to assist those recovering from various sports injuries and ailments is stem cell therapies. The new treatment is being welcomed and used by stars in the NFL, such as the Jets’ Chris Johnson. Its use is spreading slowly across the US, but rapidly in other parts of the world, this may be due to many questions raised about the usefulness and effectiveness of the treatment.
In search of treatment NFL star Chris Johnson went to Dr. James Andrew, Orthopaedic Surgeon, in search of a solution and was immediately drawn to the promise of stem cell treatment. A star in his own right at 28, with a record that boasts at least one season with a total of 2000 yards rushing and five 1000 yards NFL rushing seasons under his belt, an ailing knee was not good news.
Johnson had torn the meniscus in his knee back in 2013, during week three of the season, after which he was cut from from the Titans, he was still at every game. The meniscus acts as a shock absorber, taking the impact of blows and force away from the knee and so damage to it will also cause further damage in other areas such as the joints. It was Dr. Andrews’s opinion that Stem Cell treatment would be able to help the knee injury. Stem cells are essentially the body’s building blocks and so he believed, they could do the work of rebuilding Chris’s damaged knee.
Chris felt that a lot of the damage done to the knee was as a result of him continuing to play with the torn meniscus. It caused him to lose a lot of the cartilage surrounding the knee. He has since been signed by the Jets, who thinks he can bring an element of fire and spark to the Jets’ s offensive line. Working as a team Dr. Andrews and Chris hoped that the addition of the stem cells to his treatment would rebuild what was lost during play and the cartilage in his knee would be restored, making his knee just as good as new for years to come.
The surgery to inject the stem cell took place at the Andrews Institute in Gulf Breeze, Florida. It took about an hour or less. The stem cell, about a shot glass full, came from his bone marrow, which was removed from his pelvis using a long needle inserted through a small slit in the skin of his pelvis. In all, thousands of stem cells from his pelvis were injected into their new home in the joint of Chris’s knee.
In order to give the treatment the time needed to work and rebuild the cartilage in the knee, Chris stayed off the field for the remainder of the NFL’s off season instead of taking the customary four to six week break. The Meniscus is very difficult to repair and cartilage difficult to replace once lost, because it does not have a healthy supply of blood. The hope was that the introduction of the stem cells would act not only as an inflammatory, but also significantly add to the healing process and repair the injured tissues.
Believe it or not, hundreds of NFL players have gotten on board stem cell treatment and believe that it can be the solution to some of their most challenging sports injuries. In Europe, in 2011 Peyton Manning is reported to have used the treatment to assist in the treatment of a neck injury he sustained while playing cornerback with the Colts. After Super Bowl XLVI, the Giants, Prince Amukamara used stem cells to treat a broken metatarsal in his foot that was very slow in healing. Another player in the NFL who asked not to be named as he had not disclosed the treatment to his medical team, used stem cell treatment as well, to rescue his badly abused knees. The linebacker shelled out $6000 for just a millimeter of tissue that was donated so that the stem cells could be injected into his knees.
The treatment is still far from mainstream, but indeed is very popular and growing among teams and their players in the NFL, in fact on average, there are hundreds of players that use the treatment and with thirty two teams in the league at least six players per team. Even with figures like this, the treatment still remains off the grid with information and options for treatment not on the front page. The evidence supporting its effectiveness in treating sports injuries is based more on stories and reports than medically documented facts. Players that choose to pursue this type of treatment will often find that they must foot their own medical bills as most teams are still unwilling to pay for stem cell treatment. The options are to take advantage of overseas treatment options that are not being offered in the US which gives the whole scenario a black market feel.
There’s a movement afoot to change that and bring stem cell treatment out from the shadows and into the light. Dr. Andrews is is part of a group that is consistently working to change this. They are presently building a facility located in Florida that will act as a laboratory designed for biologics. The facility once built will further the cause of stem cell research as a viable option to traditional treatment methods to:
Stem cell therapy, uses adult stem cells found in the body, your own body. They possess a trait that enables them to regenerate and promote healing in different areas of the body in response to trauma. This is important for athletes who often damage or tear their muscle, other connective tissue and their cartilage. These cells can be found in living fat tissues and bone marrow. Although not widespread the treatment is totally legal and growing in popularity in the US and the NFL as team players tell others about the treatment option for sport injuries.
Treatment ranges from $ 5,000.00 to upwards of $25,000.00 depending on where you receive treatment. Outside of the US in countries such as Russia, Japan, Germany, North Korea and the Cayman Islands, there are many other options available for stem cell treatment and research.The stem cells can be harvested and kept for a period of ten to fourteen days. This one small sample can be cultured and used to grow millions of stem cells. For now the treatment is limited by and administered by the Food and drug administration and limited to simply extracting the bone marrow and then injecting them into the player at the point of the injury, without in any shape or form altering the stem cells.
Chris Johnson successfully joined his team at the beginning of their training for the new NFL season. His test results were amazing and his coach reported that Johnson appeared to be “flying”on the field. The real test would be to see how the knee would continue to perform throughout the remainder of the season and in the years to come.
Andrews and his team are careful not to oversell or over sensationalize stem cell treatment as it’s still early days yet and not a lot of documentation exists to support the treatment. The hope is to take away the black market look and feel of the treatments and limit the need for players to put themselves at risk and in the hands of the unknown doctors overseas, instead of receiving the treatments right here at home in the US in a controlled environment.
The team is determined to get it right and learn all they can about the treatment and the options available. They have travelled as far Malaysia to look at the treatments available there and the technique of harvesting the cells directly from the blood. Pending FDA approval, which seems to be in the works, Andrews plans to start clinical trials of his own on cartilage innovation, as soon as his facility opens. They have already actively begun talking to players who have retired from the league who have arthritis in areas such as the knee about using stem cell and in particular a treatment called PRP.
Stem cell treatment carries the hope and dreams of doctors and athletes as the next big thing to heal sports injuries. It is their hope that the treatment will not only promote regeneration, but also drastically reduce the time needed for recovery after surgery and have their players back on the field half the time.