Stem cell technology has great potential in sports. As you know, the Yankees pitcher Bartolo has had a great start but the end result will be better known at the end of the season. As you know this was done last year and he is doing well.
The true test will be endurance and the ability of the rotator cuff and elbow to not break down. Here are a few things to consider.
1. The technology has potential but as of yet is not proven. In our practice we use it and have been very very happy–but again we have only been doing it for about 2 1/2 years.
2. There is no question that injections of stem cells, mesenchymal cells and platelet-rich plasma can be used to prevent injury. I do believe in certain instances it may enhace performance as inflammation is decreased.
3. This is my point in number one. This technology is not proven and in my opinion we will find a better source of stem cell recruitment. Studies do need to be done and the science needs to be studied. Having said that, our clinical experience has been very positive. Still, it needs to be used in the correct cases.
4.Yes, there will be applications and the correct usage needs to be determined. Different cell lines will be more appropriate for different injuries. Avascular tissue needs to be treated differently than vascular degenerative tissue. This, hopefully, will decrease the need for surgery and greatly improve the results.
5.Embryonic cells come from another source. The stem cells are from the same patient. The ability to produce antibodies from another source (not the patient’s own cells) has some risks and again needs to be studied.
6. I would consider this not cheating if we are treating a medical condition. Blood doping is not treating an injury or disease process. Stem cell therapy is a medically based tratment for an injury.The USOC and IOC will be very conservative in approving this regimen and I doubt this wil be accepted any time soon. I do believe this will be alarge topic of research and if it proves to be benefical will become huge. The mechanical techniques of surgry improve slowly and this discipline of Biologics has far greater potential than any other improvement in sports medicine.
The research will lead the way but for now it is very exciting with unlimited potential.