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Successful Stem Cell Case Study, Jarvis Green

October 2, 2011

While platelet-rich plasma injections are rising in popularity, so is another alternative procedure: stem cell injections.

Last week reported that Peyton Manning traveled to Europe to have the stem cell procedure. In another report, this time in The Korea Times, Terrell Owens was supposedly reported as flying to South Korea for adult stem cell procedure, too.

Both football players are out of the 2011 season due to injuries. For Owens it’s a knee injury. For Peyton, it’s three neck surgeries in the last 18 months, the most recent being a spinal infusion.

Both athletes are hoping to save their careers. Will stem cell therapy actually do that? The chances are slim.

Stem Cell Success Depends on How You Define It

Former NFL defensive lineman Jarvis Green is another player who underwent the procedure. His case should give Manning and Owens a little hope.

But not too much hope.

While Green was playing and practicing for the Broncos in 2009, he was suffering from a torn up knee, which affected his life on and off the field. Two surgeries (one was a scope) didn’t help much. He complained of bone on bone and he did all he could to work through the pain while practicing, but at home it was a different story. He couldn’t walk up stairs or play tennis with his children. He couldn’t do anything.

In fact, while in Denver (he was playing for the Broncos) he rented a home with an elevator. Things were that bad. Until he visited a doctor in Bloomington, CO.

This doctor took bone marrow from his hip, harvested it for three weeks and then injected it back into Green’s knee. The doctor then instructed Green to wear a knee brace for ten days.

Two weeks later Green said he could swim and bike in the mountains. He even passed the grueling training camp workouts for the Broncos, going as far as beating everyone in sprints.

The procedure wasn’t enough to save his career, however. Even though he got a few more games out of his knees, he eventually retired. But off the field his quality of life improved.

Will Peyton Play This Year?

It’s highly unlikely that Peyton hopes the stem-cell procedure will get him back on the field this year. Optimistic reports say he could put his jersey on by December. Realistically, he’ll be ready for 2012 training camp.

No doubt he hopes to speed the healing process, but alleviating the pain from neck injuries and surgeries is also a factor to why an athlete like Peyton would be attracted to a treatment. It’s not so much as an act of desperation as it is an exhaustion of treatments, which is one of the criteria for pursuing alternative treatments like stem cell or PRP.

I’d like to hear Peyton share exactly what happened in Europe. That would be helpful to the sports medicine community. Speculating,  however, Manning’s stem cell procedure probably involved one of two treatments: adipose obtained stem cells from his body or pluripotent stem cells.

The pluripotent stem cells can become any type of cell. Manning’s doctors did culture some of Manning’s cells, as Glazer reported, injecting those back into his neck. What they’d like to see are those cells help heal damanged tissue.

Back in 2009, a study demonstrated that fat cells could be turned pluripotent cells. There are over 2,200 adult-stem cell clinical trials completed or ongoing, all of which are approved by the FDA.

Dr. Rick Lehman is a distinguished orthopedic surgeon in St. Louis, Missouri and an articular cartilage reconstruction pioneer He owns U. S. Sports Medicine in Kirkwood, MO, and LehmanHealth.Learn more about Dr. Rick.


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