Regenerative Medicine for Sports Injuries
Sports injuries occur when playing indoor or outdoor sports or while exercising. Sports injuries can result from accidents, inadequate training, improper use of protective devices, or insufficient stretching or warm-up exercises. The most common sports injuries are sprains and strains, fractures, and dislocations. When non-surgical treatment such as rest, ice, compression and elevation (RICE) or physical therapy does not work to heal sports injuries, your doctor may recommend regenerative medicine.
What is Regenerative Medicine?
Regenerative medicine is a field of therapy that harnesses the regenerative properties of certain cells in your own body to help heal diseased or damaged tissues and organs. It uses the body’s tissue components to replace lost tissue, accelerate healing and recovery, and provides pain relief. Regenerative medicine focuses on 3 areas:
- Improving the body’s ability to heal
- Replacing damaged organs and tissue with healthy tissue from a donor
- Using stem cells, which have the capability of transforming into any type of tissue, as well as cell products such as growth factors to restore tissue and organ function.
Regenerative medicine procedures typically take no more than 2 hours and you can return to your activities in a day or two, making it ideal for sports professionals and those who do not wish to be disabled by a surgical procedure and a long recovery period. The effects of treatment are usually long lasting and may be repeated if necessary.
Sports Injuries with Regenerative Medicine
Regenerative medicine is used in sports injuries to replace or repair damaged tendons, cartilage and ligament tissues. Regenerative medicine is recommended in sports medicine to encourage growth of new cartilage tissue, tendons and ligaments and to amplify the body’s natural healing abilities. The goal of regenerative medicine is to improve body function and reduce pain.
Types of Regenerative Medicine for Sports Injuries
Stem cell therapy, platelet rich plasma or PRP, prolotherapy and cartilage regeneration techniques are some of the examples of regenerative medicine treatments that are used for the treatment of sports injuries.
Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine for Sports Injuries
Stem cell therapy is a form of regenerative medicine that utilises the body’s natural healing mechanism to treat various conditions. Stem cells are used in regenerative medicine to renew and repair diseased or damaged tissues, and have shown promising results in the treatment of various orthopaedic conditions, sports injuries, and cardiovascular, neuromuscular and autoimmune conditions. Stem cells are present in all of us acting like a repair system for the body.
Platelet-rich plasma or PRP
Platelet-rich plasma or PRP is non-surgical regenerative therapy that uses a high concentration of platelets and plasma to promote regeneration and self-healing in many orthopaedic injuries and conditions.
PRP is a relatively new method of treatment for several orthopaedic conditions such as muscle, ligament and tendon injuries, arthritis and fractures. PRP injections can help alleviate painful symptoms, promote healing and delay joint replacement surgeries.
Your doctor will first draw about 10 cc of blood from the large vein in your elbow. The blood is then spun in a centrifuge machine for about 10 to 15 minutes to separate the platelets from the remaining blood components. The injured part of your body is then anesthetised with a local anaesthetic. The platelet-rich portion of your blood is then injected into the affected area. In some cases, your doctor may use ultrasound guidance for proper needle placement.
It is normal to feel some discomfort at the injection site for a few days after your procedure. You will be prescribed pain medications by your doctor. You may use cold compresses to alleviate any discomfort. You will be instructed to stop any anti-inflammatory medications. You may resume your normal activities, but should avoid any strenuous activities such as heavy lifting or exercise.
Prolotherapy, also referred to proliferant injection, prolo, joint sclerotherapy, regenerative injection therapy, growth factor stimulation injection, or nonsurgical tendon, ligament, and joint reconstruction, is a non-surgical treatment procedure administered to stimulate the natural healing process by promoting the growth of new tissue to restore the impaired structure. It involves injecting small amounts of irritant (sclerosant) solution at the problem region to trigger a mild inflammatory response, creating a controlled injury that initiates the body’s natural healing process to create new tissue.
Prolotherapy involves a series of injections administered every 1 to 3 weeks as suggested by your doctor. Repeated injections allow the gradual build-up of tissue. As with any medication, prolotherapy may also involve certain side effects such as swelling and stiffness at the injection site and pain.
The articular surfaces of the body’s joints are lined by hyaline cartilage, a smooth tissue that serves as a shock absorber and allows easy movement of the bones within the joint. Normal wear-and-tear or injury can damage and cause defects in the cartilage, resulting in irregular articular surfaces that interfere with movement, causing pain, swelling and disability. Cartilage can be repaired with different techniques some of which are mentioned below:
- Cartilage cell transplantation is a technique of transplanting healthy cartilage cells to replace damaged cartilage cells.
- Abrasion arthroplasty involves making abrasions or small cuts in the bone below the cartilage injury so that the blood from the damaged bone will facilitate new cartilage cell growth.