How Stem Cells Help in Sports Injuries
Stem cell therapy in Orthopaedics is used to help in the repair of damaged tissue by harnessing the healing power of undifferentiated cells that form all other cells in our bodies. The process involves isolating these stem cells from a sample of your blood, bone marrow or adipose tissue (fat cells), and injecting it into the damaged body part to promote healing. Platelet-rich-plasma (PRP), a concentrated suspension of platelets (blood cells that cause clotting of blood) and growth factors, is also used to assist the process of repair.
Aging, exercise, sports and injuries cause excessive wear and tear of the body. As we age, the process of repair is slowed down due to reduced production of mesenchymal stem cells (repair cells). This causes the joints’ elastic tissue to become stiff and lose its elasticity, thereby increasing its susceptibility to damage. This problem can be treated with stem cell therapy, where your own body’s cells can be used to repair and promote healing of degenerated or injured joints.
Stem cell therapy in Orthopaedics is currently being used in conditions such as:
- Osteoarthritis (degenerative joint disease)
- Chronic tendonitis (inflammation of the elastic tissue that connects muscle to bone)
- Bone fractures
Degenerative vertebral discs
Stem cells from your blood, bone marrow or fat cells are harvested to treat your joint pain. The treatment plan will depend on your individual condition, but generally, one stem cell injection is administered initially and an injection of PRP is given after four to six weeks. The steps involved in stem cell therapy include:
- Your doctor will apply a local anesthetic to the area from which cells will be taken (stomach or hip).
- About 30-60cc of bone marrow stem cells or about 20cc of adipose-derived stem cells is extracted.
- The stem cells and platelets are then separated from the rest of the blood by spinning it in a centrifugal machine.
- Healthy stem cells and growth factors are then injected directly into the damaged area.
Numbness will persist in the injured area for about an hour; once it lessens you should prevent the area from further injury. Anti-inflammatory medications should be avoided for at least 4 weeks. You can use ice for 10-20 minutes every 2-3 hours if required. Your doctor may prescribe medications to relieve pain. Inform your doctor if you experience bleeding, increased pain, infection or fever.
Risks and Complications
As with any procedure, stem cell injection involves potential risks and complications. The common complications at the injection site include infection and bruising. Soreness may occur at the site from where the stem cells were removed.
Advantages of stem cell therapy are:
- The therapy reduces pain and provides long lasting relief from chronic tendinitis and osteoarthritis.
- The therapy uses the body’s own cells for repair therefore there is no chance of rejection.