Stem Cell Therapy for Sports Injuries

Sports injuries can sideline you from your favorite activities – and many traditional treatments can keep you out of the game for long periods during rest, recovery from surgery, or rehabilitation after procedures. Sports injuries may include bone breaks, fractures, and bruising; joint injuries like dislocations, separations, and post-injury arthritis; soft tissue injuries to muscles, ligaments, cartilage, and other connective tissues; head injuries and concussion, and injuries caused by overuse. Sports injuries can take a long time to heal, or never fully heal at all. SVF stem cell therapy provided by Innovations Stem Cell Center gives sports injury patients an alternative to conventional medicine- with proven results. See our blog about nagging injuries.

Does Stem Cell Therapy for Sports Injuries Work?

Patients who undergo stem cell therapy for sports injuries report a reduction in their painful symptoms, increased range of motion, and increased mobility. Stem cell therapy helps to quickly reduce joint inflammation, and many patients see improvements in 1 to 2 days. The anti-inflammatory results of the procedure last 2 to 3 months, and many patients see a gradual improvement in their condition over time.

There is now a large amount of published research concerning stem cells for sports injuries. Many different approaches are being studied, and numerous types of sports injuries are also under investigation. Given the current research and the experience of Innovations Medical and the Cell Surgical Network, we can give direction on some important questions.

1. Question: Will stem cells help the pain from my sports injury?

Answer: Yes in most cases. Most studies have shown good to excellent pain reduction. Stem cells, especially those from fat are highly anti-inflammatory and very helpful with pain and swelling.
2. Question: Will stem cells help heal my sports injury?

Answer: Yes in many cases. Stem cells are being used increasingly to enhance healing both with and without surgical intervention. Although the best way to use the cells is still being tested, stem cells can definitely improve healing.
3. Question: What types of sports injuries can stem cells help?

Answer: Sports injuries vary greatly in location, cause, and extent of injury. Studies are available showing help with the following injuries:

  1. Shoulder and rotator cuff injuries
  2. Knee ligament and cartilage injuries
  3. Elbow injuries
  4. Achilles tendon injuries
  5. Foot and ankle injuries
  6. Back injuries

4. Question: Can stem cells from fat speed my recovery from a recent sports injury?

Answer: Yes. Multiple sports injuries have been shown to heal and recover more quickly when stem cells are used.
5. Question: Can stem cells help me recover from my sports injury, even though it occurred months or years ago?

Answer: Yes. Multiple studies now show that both pain and mobility can be improved by stem cells used in the areas of old injuries.

Who is an Ideal Candidate?

Patients with sports injuries who are ideal candidates for stem cell therapy include:

  • Patients who have not responded to current medical treatments, or who are no longer responding to current medical treatment
  • Patients who cannot tolerate the recommended treatment for their condition
  • Patients who want to avoid the recommended treatment for their condition, such as surgery
  • Patients for which nothing has been effective

SVF stem cell therapy is minimally invasive, giving patients an alternative to painful surgery and a lengthy recovery. See our blogs Understanding Adipose-Derived Stem Cells and What are Stem Cells?

Do Stem Cells or PRP (Platelet Rich Plasma) Help More for Sports Injuries?

Some people talk about PRP (Platelet Rich Plasma) as if it contains stem cells. That is incorrect. PRP has no stem cells. PRP can be useful for sports injuries because it contains a large number of special proteins called growth factors. Growth factors are chemical messengers used by our cells to talk with each other. The growth factors in platelets tell our cells and immune systems the information needed to clean and repair injured tissue. PRP concentrates platelets, increasing the amount of messenger growth factors present. PRP has evidence of improving the healing of wounds, joint and tendon problems, aiding hair restoration, and other areas. It is used cosmetically to perform rejuvenating facials, improve wounds and improve the survival of transferred fat. However, PRP contains growth factors that can also cause inflammation. These growth factors are important in removing damaged tissue but can make PRP less effective in many sports injuries. Stem cells from fat contain growth factors that are anti-inflammatory. This makes them more effective for many sports injuries, especially those that have been present for several weeks or months and just won’t clear up. Stem cells have a clear advantage over PRP for these chronic injuries.

Stem Cell Therapy Treatments for Sports Injuries

Sports injuries are one of the most rapidly developing areas of adult stem cell investigations. There are many types of sports injuries. Various injuries have various treatments and outcomes. Adult stem cells are being investigated to speed healing, reduce scarring/fibrosis, heal structures that previously could not be healed, and relieve pain.

The FAQ section below is designed to help you gain a greater understanding of the use of adult stem cells for Sports Injuries and offer a framework for evaluating if stem cell treatment is a potential step for you or your loved one.

Q: What are the types of sports injuries for which adult stem cells are being investigated?

A: There are many types of sports injuries. Sports injuries can involve almost any area of the body.

We can group most sports injuries into five categories:

  1. Bone injuries: Including breaks or fractures and “bruising”
  2. Soft tissue injuries: Including muscle, ligaments, tendons, cartilage, skin scrapes, and bruises
  3. Joint injuries: Including dislocations, separations, and post-injury arthritis
  4. Head injuries: Primarily concussions
  5. Overuse injuries: Usually involve soft tissue or joints but are caused by repetitive activities

Stem cells are being investigated in each of these areas. Some investigations are determining if stem cells speed healing and recovery. These include:

  • Muscle injuries
  • Bone fractures
  • Some joint injuries
  • Head injuries
  • Overuse injuries

Others are investigating the ability of stem cells to promote recovery in areas that historically heal poorly or not at all. These include:

  • Tendon and ligament injuries
  • Cartilage injuries
  • Repeated concussions
  • Some overuse and muscle injuries

Investigators are also looking at both; speeding recovery and enabling recovery in historically poorly recovering injuries.

Q: What are the current medical treatment options for Sports Injuries?

A: Sports injuries are treated differently depending on the category mentioned above. For example, bone fractures are currently treated to place the broken edges together and immobilize them for several weeks.

Soft tissue injuries and joint injuries are treated variously with rest, physical therapy/rehab, injections (steroids and others like Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP)), and sometimes surgical repair.

The importance of treating concussions with physical and mental rest is becoming increasingly emphasized. Overuse injuries typically require long-term rest from the offending activity, rehab, and sometimes injections.

Many of these therapies, like those for fractures and minor soft tissue injuries like sprains, are highly effective. Any use of stem cells in these areas would have the goal of speeding recovery since complete recovery is the typical outcome of conventional therapy.

Other treatments, like some muscle or ligament tears, overuse injuries, and repeated concussions, often result in less than complete recovery. These are areas where stem cells may offer more complete recovery as well as faster recovery.

Q: What are adult stem cells?

A: Stem cells are special cells in our bodies that have two important characteristics:

Stem cells have the ability to replicate. In other words, they can make new copies of themselves. Because of this ability, an infinite number of copies can be made from the same cell.

Stem cells also have the ability to become other types of cells. Research labs have used fat-derived stem cells to make cartilage, muscle, skin, and bone cells. This ability means that in theory the transformed cells can make an infinite number of the new cell type.

Stem cells can come from various sources, including embryos, umbilical cord blood, and adult cells. Adult stem cells come from adult individuals, not embryos or umbilical cord blood. Stem cells obtained from mature adult tissues are referred to as adult stem cells. Adult stem cells are believed to have the potential to become any type of cell.

The two most commonly used sources of adult stem cells are fat and bone marrow.

Adult stem cells from fat are called adipose-derived adult stem cells. For most purposes, stem cells from fat are easier to obtain and more abundant than those from other tissues.

Q: How are adult stem cells harvested from fat?

A: Harvesting adult stem cells from fat is very safe. The procedure has little discomfort and a fairly easy recovery. First, an area such as the stomach or leg is picked to remove the fat. We then take you to the procedure room and sterilize the area. A local anesthetic is then injected into the area. Fat is suctioned using a special syringe and cannula. Typically we suction about 50 ml (about 1 1.2 oz.) of fat.

Swelling and bruising are common following the procedure at the harvest site. Swelling and bruising typically resolve within 2-3 weeks after the procedure. Most patients receive a prescription for pain medications for use as needed. We give a dose of antibiotics before the procedure but no antibiotics are needed afterward.

Next we take the harvested cells and use a centrifuge and incubator to do some simple processing. The processing isolates the adult stem cells from the other fat cells. The final product is called Stromal Vascular Fraction (SVF). SVF obtained from fat can contain up to about 25 million adult stem cells from 50 ml of fat. SVF also contains a large amount of growth factors. Growth factors are chemical “text messages” our cells use to communicate with each other. After we have obtained the SVF, the next step is to deploy the SVF for your peripheral neuropathy.

Q: How are adult stem cells deployed for Sports Injuries?

A: Stem cells are typically deployed by injection into the affected area(s) and intravenously (IV). Early investigations suggest that using both local injections and IV deployment enhances the outcomes. Most of the injection sites such as most soft tissue and joints can be done directly at Innovations Medical.

Some such as injections in the back or neck require special imaging and are done at a separate location where radiologic imaging like a CT scan is available. Typically all of these injections and the IV are done under local anesthesia without the need for sedation.

Q: What results can I expect after deployment of adult stem cells for Sports Injuries?

A: Currently the treatment group is not large enough to give a conclusive answer to this question.

Fortunately, we have enough early experience to talk about trends in therapy. Improvement in one or two days is common. We believe this is due to the strong anti-inflammatory effect of the growth factors associated with adult stem cells/SVF. This anti-inflammatory effect lasts from 2-3 months.

From there, we most commonly see continued gradual improvement as the adult stem cells help provide healing to the injured area. Bone fractures may heal a bit faster and tend to hurt less and recover faster once fused.

It is too early to say conclusively that adult stem cell treatment promotes the growth of new cartilage or repairs damaged ligaments or tendons. However, some early evidence is pointing in that direction.

Sports injuries may or may not require repeat deployment. Typically it is best to wait 3-6 months before considering repeat deployment. Most of the time repeat deployment is done because some improvement has been seen and more is sought. Occasionally, repeat deployment is done because the patient has lost some benefit previously gained.

The question of how many and how often is an area of intense interest and close study at this time.

Q: What is the future for adult stem cells in Sports Injuries?

A: Many people believe that stem cells hold great potential for treating and reversing the effects of sports injuries, including repeated concussions.

The type of stem cells best to use (embryonic, bone marrow, or fat derived) and how to best utilize them is heavily researched and debated.

Adult stem cells have a good chance of becoming the treatment of choice because of their safety, availability, and lack of controversy. It is likely that in the future, we will see further preparation done to the adult stem cells/SVF in order to prepare them to more readily become tendons, ligaments, and cartilage.

Over the next few years, we have some real hope in seeing therapy develop that could restore large amounts of function to patients with sports injuries and hasten their recovery.

Cost of Stem Cell Treatments

The cost of the initial treatment ranges from $5,000 to $10,000. The range in cost is dependent on the complexity of delivering the cells back to you. For example, spine conditions require multiple physicians to deliver the cells back to your body and this requires an increase in cost as multiple doctors are involved in the procedure. For many people the initial treatment is all that is needed; however, for some conditions, subsequent treatments may be required and these are done at a reduced fee. Innovations Medical offers stem cell treatment procedures at both our Dallas and Fort Worth practice locations.

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Contact Innovations Medical to Learn About Stem Cell Therapy for Sports Injuries

If you’re looking to treat a sports injury, Innovations Medical is here for you. Our skilled professionals help you decide which treatment is best for you — keeping you informed and confident in the next steps. We’ve been helping our patients look and feel their best since 2005, and even our most advanced procedures are often minimally invasive.

To find out if stem cell therapy is right for you, and to learn how Innovations Medical can improve your life, call us at (214) 643-8665 or request a consultation.


For more information on stem cells, visit: California Stem Cell Treatment Center