Knee stem cells are becoming an increasingly know treatment strategy. The exact science is better understood, yet all is still not known of how stem cells exert all their effects or why not every patient improves the same.
This is as complex issue. Yet, when taken in light of not ever athlete improves with surgery, or not every patient responds to physical therapy and rest, the mysteries become less vague and the facts we do know become more clear. Many treatment modalities in sports medicine are not fully understood. Cold laser, electrical currents, acupuncture are some examples.
We do know that safety trials with human adult stem cells have been shown stem cells to be safe.
This can not be said as clearly as commonly prescribed medications, especially oral anti-inflammatories or arthritis medications. These can cause stomach ulcers, liver and kidney disease and death. Necessitating a removal from the market of Vioxx, a previous popular prescribed NSAID medication.
Stem cells from the patient have been used to treat many types of musculoskeletal problems as well as Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP). These uses have also included the treatment of a variety of knee problems with both Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) and stem cells.
The use of these Regenerative Medicine procedures has included elite professional athletes in all major sports. Tiger Woods, Kobe Bryant, Rafael Nadal, Alex Rodriquez, Hines Ward all have used PRP for their knees. While some others have also reported their own use of stem cells for knee pain (Rafael Nadal), it was very famously described in the news when professional football player Peyton Manning had stem cells in his neck following surgery. Though not an athlete in the classic sense, even Pope John Paul had knee PRP.
A common misconception is the Vatican is opposed to stem cells. The Vatican actually supports the use of adult stem cells, and has held stem cell conferences at the Vatican.
The athlete has unique circumstances. Their sport is important to them and may be their livelihood. Extending their playing career by assisting the healing response or slowing the degenerative cascade has profound implications for the athlete.
Understanding the pathophysiology of knee trauma and degeneration is important to fully appreciate the ability of stem cells in sports medicine applications.
While complete mastery of the science is not necessary, the basics are helpful in understanding the process and evaluating potential therapeutic applications of the use of stem cells in athletes and sports medicine.