Sports injuries are one of the most rapidly developing areas of adult stem cell investigations. There are many types of sports injury. Various injuries have various treatments and outcomes. Adult stem cells are being investigated to speed healing, reduce scarring/fibrosis, heal structures that previously could not be healed and relieve pain.
This article is designed to help readers gain a greater understanding of the use of adult stem cells for Sports Injuries and offer a framework for evaluating if stem cell treatment is a potential step for you or your loved one.
We will cover the following:
- What are the types of sports injuries for which adult stem cells are being investigated?
- What are the current medical treatment options for sports injuries?
- What are adult stem cells?
- How are adult stem cells harvested from fat?
- How are adult stem cells deployed for sports injuries?
- What can I expect after deployment of adult stem cells for sports injuries?
- What is the future for adult stem cells for sports injuries?
Feel free to skip sections that provide information that is not useful to you. For more information including definitions and descriptions of sports injuries visit WebMD.
What are the types of sports injuries for which adult stem cells are being investigated?
There are many types of sports injuries. Sports injuries can involve almost any area of the body.
We can group most sports injuries into five categories:
- Bone injuries – including brakes or fracture and “bruising”
- Soft tissue injuries – including muscle, ligaments, tendons, cartilage and skin scrapes and bruises
- Joint injuries – including dislocations, separations and post-injury arthritis
- Head injuries – primarily concussions
- Overuse injuries – usually involve soft tissue or joints but caused by repetitive activities
Stem cells are being investigated in each of these areas. Some investigations are determining if stem cells speed healing and recovery. These include:
- muscle injuries
- bone fractures
- some joint injuries
- head injuries
- overuse injuries
Others are investigating the ability of stem cells to promote recovery in areas that historically heal poorly or not at all. These include:
- tendon and ligament injuries
- cartilage injuries
- repeated concussions
- some overuse and muscle injuries
Investigators are also looking at both; speeding recovery and enabling recovery in historically poorly recovering injuries.
What are the current medical treatment options for Sports Injuries?
Sports injuries are treated differently depending on the category mentioned above. For example: bone fractures are currently treated to place the broken edges together and immobilizing them for several weeks.
Soft tissue injuries and joint injuries are treated variously with rest, physical therapy/rehab, injections (steroids and others like Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP)), and sometimes surgical repair.
The importance of treating concussions with physical and mental rest is becoming increasingly emphasized. Overuse injuries typically require long term rest from the offending activity, rehab and sometimes injections.
Many of these therapies like those for fractures and minor soft tissue injuries like sprains are highly effective. Any use of stem cells in these areas would have the goal of speeding recovery since complete recovery is the typical outcome of conventional therapy.
Others treatments like some muscle or ligament tears, overuse injuries and repeated concussions often respond with less than complete recovery. These are areas where stem cells may offer more complete recovery as well as faster recovery.
What are adult stem cells?
Stem cells are special cells in our bodies that have two important characteristics:
Stem cells have the ability to replicate. In other words they can make new copies of themselves. Because of this ability, an infinite number of copies can be made from the same cell.
Stem cells also have the ability to become other types of cells. A good example of this is that research labs have used fat derived stem cells to make cartilage muscle, skin and bone cells. This ability means that in theory the transformed can make an infinite number of the new cell type.
Stem cells can come from a number of sources including embryos, umbilical cord blood and adult cells. Adult stem cells come from adult individuals, not embryos or umbilical cord blood. Stem cells obtained from mature adult tissues are referred to as adult stem cells. Adult stem cells are believed to have the potential to become any type of cell.
The two most commonly used sources of adult stem cells are fat and bone marrow.
Adult stem cells from fat are called adipose derived adult stem cells. For most purposes, stem cells from fat are easier to obtain and more abundant than from other tissues.
For more information on stem cells visit.
How are adult stem cells harvested from fat?
Harvesting adult stem cells from fat is very safe. The procedure has little discomfort and fairly easy recovery. First an area such as the stomach or leg is picked to remove the fat. We then take you to the procedure room and sterilize the area. A local anesthetic is then injected into the area. Fat is suctioned using special syringe and cannula. Typically we suction about 50 ml (about 1 1.2 oz.) of fat.
Swelling and bruising is common following the procedure at the harvest site. Swelling and bruising typically resolves within 2-3 weeks after the procedure. Most patients receive a prescription for pain medications for use as needed. We give a dose of antibiotics before the procedure but no antibiotics are needed afterwards.
Nest we take the harvested cells and use a centrifuge and incubator to do some simple processing. The processing isolates the adult stem cells from the other fat cells. The final product is called Stromal Vascular Fraction (SVF). SVF obtained from fat can contain up to about 25 million adult stem cells from 50 ml of fat. SVF also contains a large amount of growth factors. Growth factors are chemical “text messages” our cells use to communicate with each other. After we have obtained the SVF, the next step is to deploy the SVF for your peripheral neuropathy.
How are adult stem cells deployed for Sports Injuries?
Stem cells are typically deployed by injection into the affected area(s) and intravenously (IV). Early investigations suggest that using both local injections and IV deployment enhances the outcomes. Most of the injection sites such as most soft tissue and joints can be done directly at Innovations Medical.
Some such as injections in the back or neck require special imaging and are done at a separate location where radiologic imaging like CT scan is available. Typically all of these injections and the IV are done under local anesthesia without the need for sedation.
What results can I expect after deployment of adult stem cells for Sports Injuries?
Currently the treatment group is not large enough to give a conclusive answer to this question. It is important to note that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has NOT approved the use of adult stem cells/SVF for any disorder. This includes the use of stem cells/SVF for sports injuries.
Fortunately, we have enough early experience to talk about trends in therapy. Improvement in one or two days is common. We believe this is due to the strong anti-inflammatory effect of the growth factors associated with adult stem cells/SVF. This anti-inflammatory effect lasts from 2-3 months.
From there, we most commonly see continued gradual improvement as the adult stem cells help provide healing to the injured area. Bone fractures may heal a bit faster and tend to hurt less and recover faster once fused.
It is too early to say conclusively that adult stem cells treatment promotes the growth of new cartilage or repairs damaged ligaments or tendons. However, some early evidence is pointing in that direction.
Sports injuries may or may not require repeat deployment. Typically it is best to wait 3-6 months before considering repeat deployment. Most of the time repeat deployment is done because some improvement has been seen and more is sought. Occasionally, repeat deployment is done because the patient has lost some benefit previously gained.
The question of how many and how often is an area of intense interest and close study at this time.
What is the future for adult stem cells in Sports Injuries?
Many people believe that stem cells hold a great potential for treating and reversing the effects of sports injuries including repeated concussions.
The type of stem cells best to use (embryonic, bone marrow or fat derived) and how to best utilize them is heavily researched and debated.
Adult stem cells have a good chance of becoming the treatment of choice because of their safety, availability and lack of controversy. It is likely that in the future, we will see further preparation done to the adult stem cells/SVF in order to prepare them to more readily become tendons, ligaments and cartilage.
Over the next few years, we have some real hope in seeing therapy develop that could restore large amounts of function to patients with sports injuries and hasten their recovery.
We hope we have answered the majority of your questions. If you have others or wish to schedule a consultation please call: 214-420-7970.