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Sports injuries can be anywhere from minor to extreme. When you experience one, the good news is that technological advancements in the field of medicine have paved the way for new forms of treatment. Regenerative medicine is one of these.
Regenerative medicine refers to the kind of treatment that takes advantage of the body’s ability to heal through its healthy regenerative cells. This can help speed up the body’s natural healing process, improving function and even reducing pain.
For athletes who are pressured by time to heal right away in between sports seasons and training sessions, this form of treatment is very effective. They experience less downtime, and can go back to their sport as soon as possible.
The problem with sports injuries is that some can be very complicated to treat. So, it’s very important to go right into the root of the injury. That way, an athlete doesn’t have to suffer the same injury over and over again.
That said, this article gives you information on everything you need to know about regenerative medicine, particularly how it works in managing sports injuries.
A Brief Background On The Regenerative Medicine Process
Regenerative medicine begins with the process of taking some of the body’s own cells and injecting them into the injured part. The medical industry also refers to this as orthobiologics, wherein biological substances like stem cells and platelet-rich plasma are used to speed up the healing process in the muscles and skeletal system of the body.
The stem cells are taken from the patient’s body through the following parts:
- Bone marrow, which is harvested by the doctor in the pelvic area using a needle and syringe
- Fat, which is taken by a liposuction doctor through the adipose (fat) stem cells
- Blood, from the peripheral blood stem cells usually found in the bloodstream
A seasoned doctor from Walker Spine & Sport trained to perform stem cell therapy can explain more about the technicalities of the procedure before you undergo one.
The stem cell that’s been harvested can work for injuries such as:
- Achilles tendonitis – This injury results from an overuse of the Achilles tendon, which is located in the back of the lower leg to your heel bone. This type of injury is most common for soccer, football, basketball players, and runners who have drastically increased the intensity of their runs. Unfortunately for some, Achilles tendonitis can result in ruptures in the tendons wherein serious medical care is necessary.
- Runner’s knee – This refers to the condition whereby you suffer dull pain around the front area of the knee or the patella. This refers to the part where the knee connects with the lower end of the thighbone or femur. This condition can be characterized by a rubbing or clicking sound of the kneecap, pain when sitting for a long time, and a knee cap that feels tender when you touch it.
- Shin splints – This refers to the condition whereby your sport injury is centered on your shin bone. This is the large bone in the front of your lower leg. This injury can happen to athletes who have also made a drastic change in the intensity of their workout routines. Shin splints often let your shin bones feel sore and tender.
- Tennis elbow – This is a very painful condition suffered by athletes wherein the tendons in the elbow are overloaded due to repetitive motions of the arm and wrist. When an athlete suffers this kind of injury, it’s difficult to perform even the most basic of tasks such as shaking hands and gripping an object, holding a coffee cup or even turning a door knob.
- Sprains and strains – These are very common in athletes who are injured no matter the kind of sport they play. This kind of injury generally involves the stretching or tearing of the aggravated tissue. Sprains are common to the ligaments, while strains occur in the muscles or the tendons.
- ACL tear – An ACL tear involves the one of the major ligaments found in your knee, the Anterior Cruciate Ligament. This condition, which refers to a sprain or tear in the ACL, is usually experienced by athletes who participate in basketball, soccer, and downhill skiing.
Many patients have used regenerative medicine as an alternative to surgery, particularly when they’re not very keen on undergoing the latter. Other athletes may also not have the time to recover from a surgery, especially when they’re injured during a busy sports season.
For sports injuries, regenerative medicine is successful in treating conditions to the overuse of particular body parts.
The Benefits Of Regenerative Medicine On Sports Injuries
Regenerative medicine for sports injuries is very popular simply because it has so many benefits to athletes when it comes to managing sports injuries. Some of these include the following:
It Can Delay Or Eliminate The Need For Surgery
Some athletes consider surgeries as a death sentence, particularly when they’re asked to have one in the middle of a sports season. No athlete will ever want to be temporarily suspended for months just because they have to recuperate from a surgery.
Fortunately, regenerative medicine can be used as a means to delay or eliminate surgery.
For example, platelet-rich plasma injections and stem cell infusions can work well for the following areas:
- Soft-tissues, ligaments and the joints
- Large joints like your hips and shoulders
- Small joints
It Speeds Up Healing And Reduces Pain
Sports injuries can take time to heal. They can also be very painful, leading to extreme discomfort for the patient-athlete. Going through surgery or other invasive methods will only increase this pain.
With regenerative medicine, however, healing is sped up and the pain is reduced as well. This kind of treatment focuses on the root cause of the problem and healing it from there. Doctors don’t simply manage symptoms so the healing process of tissues is also faster.
For faster healing, platelet-rich plasma or stem cell therapy can be used alone or together. It can achieve the following results:
- Repair of the degenerated spinal discs
- Regrow damaged cartilage
- Repair fractured bones
- Repair and regrow ligaments and tendons
Along with regenerative medicine, here are other ways for athletes to reduce pain while recovering from sports injuries:
- Getting a massage – Post-exercise massage can help reduce pain. For athletes, having regular massage sessions can also reduce the onset of pain should any injury or soreness occur. Muscles that have undergone more massage sessions also have more blood vessels, which, in turn, results in improved recovery.
- Foam rolling – This is also known as myofascial release, where tension in the connective tissue of the muscle is relieved. This can also help reduce soreness in the body should a sports injury happen.
It Comes In Different Kinds
For athletes suffering from sports injuries, there are generally three categories of regenerative therapy or medicine that are available. Because there are different categories with multiple treatment forms in each kind, this further assures them that they’re receiving the best treatment form for the kind of injury they have. Therefore, healing is also further improved.
These different kinds of regenerative medicine are:
- Tissue Engineering
This refers to the category of regenerative therapy where damaged tissues are replaced with natural tissues, man-made tissues, or a combination of both. These are most typically used for cartilage injuries.
- Cellular Therapies
This refers to the treatment form to facilitate healing by injecting or placing live cells into the patient. The most well-known kind of cellular therapy is stem cell. This is beneficial for sports injuries such as tendinopathy.
- Other Therapies
This refers to the other treatment forms whereby the body’s natural ability to heal tissues is done sans the need to introduce new tissues and cells. An example of this therapy form is prolotherapy.
Here, it’s your doctor who’ll choose the best kind for you, also based on your preferences, needs, and type of injury. Because there are many different categories, the management of injuries is better. You don’t have to confine yourself to just undergoing a surgery if you don’t even necessarily have to.
It Has Multiple Modes Of Application
There are many ways by which regenerative medicine can be administered. This results in better management of your injury, as your doctor can also select the mode of administration that suits you best. For example, with a surgery, you have no other choice but to take a break for a couple of months. With regenerative medicine, you can get back into the game faster as is modes of application are easier and better.
These application modes are:
- Stem-cell bearing sutures – This is still considered an invasive method, but it heals faster and better than regular surgery would. Here, a surgeon stitches together a torn muscle, tendon or ligament by using a thread-like material that’s coated with stem cells. As the suture dissolves, the body also absorbs the stem cell.
- Injection – This mode is used both for stem cell and platelet-rich plasma therapies. A physician injects stem cells to the affected area. This is done through medical imaging or ultrasound, so that the cells are accurately injected into the affected area.
- Direct surgical application – The surgeon directly applies the stem cells to the bone, torn tendon or ligament in need of repair.
It Increases The Body’s Functionality
Regenerative medicine works not just to heal the affected body parts, but also to increase its functionality. This is achieved through the production of collagen, which is needed to strengthen the tendons and tissues in the body. The health of the tissues and bones that are treated with stem cells improves because of the arrival of fresh cells. The overall health of your musculoskeletal system drastically improves.
When this is achieved, the range of motion of each joint also increases. For athletes, this is very advantageous as it improves their ability to effortlessly perform their everyday tasks again.
To supplement the regenerative treatment you’ve received, other ways by which the body’s functionality can improve are as follows:
- Give yourself a few days to completely rest the injured body part
- Perform light exercises, or those that your doctor will allow you to perform
- Sleep well at night
- Regularly hydrate
- Stay away from junk food
It Reduces Risk Of Future Injuries
Regenerative medicine takes care of injuries right from its source. Therefore, this can reduce the risk of future injuries and pain. For athletes, this is a very welcome recourse as it saves them the trouble of going through the same ordeal again the future.
Other means of reducing the risk of future injuries include:
- Developing a fitness plan once you’ve completely recuperated after your regenerative therapy
- Going through a full range of motion during each repetition of your strength training
- Exercising different muscle groups alternately
- Resting when tired to avoid overworking specific body parts
- Cooling down properly after going through exercise
It Reduces Inflammation
For athletes who regularly suffer sports injuries, it’s normal also for them to feel as if they’ve got chronic pain. Many of these athletes could be dependent on anti-inflammatory drugs that may have side effects in the long run. While these medicines can help offer relief, this is only temporary. They don’t really address the problem from the core.
Rather than taking these medicines regularly, why not go for a better and more natural form of treatment instead? This is what regenerative medicine can do for you. Stem cell therapies, for instance, have no side effects, save only for the slight discomfort that you’ll feel right after the procedure. This is completely safe, as you’re not putting in anything in your body that’s foreign to it. After all, you’re only utilizing your healthy cells to treat the ones that are suffering.
Regenerative therapies are very successful at reducing the inflammation that happens when the body attacks its own tissues.
This is also needed for autoimmune diseases and chronic pain, like the following:
- Joint pain
- Degenerative disc disease
- Lower back pain
If you’ve recently suffered from a sports injury where your doctor notes that you’re highly unlikely to recover from traditional treatment forms, regenerative therapy or medicine will come highly recommended.
These would include stem cell therapy, cartilage regeneration, and platelet-rich plasma therapy, among others. If this treatment form is advised for you, you now have more information about it and its respective benefits after reading through this.
It also helps to have a thorough discussion about this with your doctor, so you can make a more informed decision as to whether or not this is a kind of treatment you’d like to undergo.