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The Role of Stem Cells in Sports Medicine

Stem cells are beneficial for treating many different types of sports injuries, from bone fractures to torn ligaments. Find out more about the role they play in sports medicine.

Published by Anja Health on

September 13, 2022

— Updated on

September 13, 2022

In this article:

Stem cell therapy is a viable solution for sports injuries because it is a non-invasive option for athletes. This means that surgery is not required, and the repercussions of surgery are shortened, such as recovery and rehabilitation periods. Athletes who wish to return to sports have a quicker return with stem cell therapy vs. traditional surgeries. Stem cell therapy has produced results for various injuries, including ACL tears, tennis elbow, overall sprains and strains, and shin splints, among others. Other people who participate in sports, have suffered a fall or acute event, or even those patients with long-term wear and tear can all consider stem cell therapy as an option for healing and returning to normal function quicker than other treatment options.

A quick overview 

Stem cells are the “building blocks” of the human body. These unique cells can heal tissue by repairing and regenerating the damaged tissue. Stem cells can develop into many different types of cells, which is why their ability to assist with healing in so many different areas of the body is widely recognized. Stem cells are the only cells of the body that can generate into different types of cells.

Stem cells come from various sources, including the umbilical cord blood or the placenta. Other sources include amniotic fluid, embryos 3-5 days old, or adult stem cells found in bone marrow or fat. Compared to other sources of stem cells, stem cells from adults were thought to only develop into different similar cell types (e.g., bone marrow stem cells could only develop into blood cells). Recent developments have found that it may be possible for adult stem cells to have slightly more function, such as using those from bone marrow to treat heart disease

How does stem cell therapy work?

Stem cell therapy works for sports injuries being a non-surgical and non-opioid treatment and an alternative to traditional treatments like surgery. Stem cells can be harvested from the patient’s hip or adipose (fat) tissue and injected into the damaged or injured area or stem cells provided from stem cell banking, such as from umbilical cords. When injected into the damaged area, the stem cells regenerate as new tissue. For example, stem cells injected into an injured tendon will develop as new tendon cells, therefore healing the area. These cells have healed the damaged tissue upon regeneration and replaced it with new functioning tissue. After the procedure, the patient will follow up with their medical team to ensure the treatment is progressing as intended.

What can it treat?

Various sports injuries can be treated with stem cell therapy, but not all. Damaged tissues such as tendons, ligaments, cartilage, and muscles can all be treated. Fractured bones are another area for treatment, and many injuries that have lingered and/or not responded to other forms of treatment are all possible considerations for stem cell therapy. In addition to damage the body may have sustained from an injury or unique event, stem cell therapy can also be utilized for the overuse of specific areas and long-term damage due to overuse. Arthritis due to damage or overuse is another possible treatment area that can benefit from stem cell therapy. 

Who can benefit from stem cell therapy?

To benefit from stem cell therapy, the patient does not need to be an athlete or a sports participant. Patients who have damaged areas of the body due to falls or other injuries may not want to undergo full surgery and/or have a reason for a quicker recovery period. All patients with damaged areas where stem cells can assist are potential candidates. Patients interested in stem cell therapy should discuss options with their medical provider, including where and how the cells will be provided for treatment. Patients must not have cancer or active infections to be a candidate for stem cell treatment.

Are there any risks involved?

Any treatment comes with risks, and patients should always discuss it with their healthcare provider. Depending on how the stem cells are harvested, risks may involve site reactions (such as bruising, swelling, or bleeding) and/or pain. If the patient’s own cells are harvested from the hip, there has been signification pain associated with past procedures. However, many offices are now offering new and innovative techniques designed to reduce pain and produce a higher quantity of cells. The possibility of infection is another risk that can be monitored and reduced through high-quality procedures and follow-up. The treatment may not work as anticipated, or the body may not respond as fully as possible.

Although there are risks associated with using stem cells for sports medicine, the risks involved tend to be less than those seen with traditional therapies, such as surgeries. Patients tend to have quicker recoveries with less overall trauma to the body.

Bank your stem cells with Anja Health

Anja Health is a leader in the stem cell industry. Umbilical cord and placenta stem cell preservation with Anja Health is easy and safe and can help prepare you and your family for the future. Anja Health is dedicated to ensuring all families have access to the preservation of Stem Cells. Saving stem cells from your umbilical cord or placenta may assist with future sports injuries but has many other valuable treatment options, too.

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