Can a golfers elbow injection save an elite athlete’s career? Does what’s injected matter? You’ve likely seen the news that many professional athletes have been turning to platelet rich plasma and stem cells to heal injuries more quickly and without the need for season ending surgery. We’ve treated many professional football players through the years with both platelets and stem cells, most of which don’t like to discuss their care. Why? The contract value of a player is often decreased substantially by injuries. While some injuries, because of the way they happen are out in the open and witnessed by the public, many of the things that can side line a player are not as publicly well known. As a result, we’ve always had a policy of strict confidentiality for elite athletes, so stories about them are limited to those few who are later in their careers or trying to make a big comeback. However, this particular story about an NFL player can be told without naming any names, as the issue isn’t the player, but what was injected. Let me explain.
We first saw this player in clinic about a month ago. Like many throwing athletes he had developed a chronic medial epicondylitis (golfer’s elbow). This had been going on for a year. He was sidelined so he went to a famous orthopedic clinic who told him he may need surgery, which was sure to end his season and possibly his career. He then tried PRP through that clinic, but like many orthopedic clinics using PRP, this didn’t work. He then did some homework and found us, a place where cellular therapies for orthopedic injuries aren’t a side line of the practice, but the main thrust of what we do everyday. In addition, using an Orthopedics 2.0 philosophy, we knew that the fact his neck was hurting was a big deal that needed to be addressed, as patients with chronic elbow issues frequently have irritated nerves in the neck that facilitate them.
What did we do? We examined his elbow under ultrasound using stress and saw the tears in his common flexor tendon. We used that to map the injection areas and then we skipped PRP and went directly to the Regenexx-SD stem cell procedure. In addition, while the orthopedic clinic used a simple bedside machine to produce mass manufactured, bloody PRP (which reduces healing in mesenchymal stem cells), we used a million dollar lab to produce a customized stem cell injectate from his bone marrow-isolating many more cells than bedside machines can. In addition, we treated the issues in his neck with super concentrated platelets. The result? The NFL player has now been cleared for play by the team’s trainer and likely won’t need surgery. The upshot? Regenerative medicine and interventional orthopedics aren’t a sideline for our clinic, they are what we do. Rather than a therapy to try before a big surgery is performed, we offer ground breaking therapy that can help patients avoid surgery altogether! In addition, we don’t focus just where the pain is, but look at the whole athlete to see if missed diagnoses elsewhere are preventing healing.
Sunday Football Update: Our injured player is starting in his position today. We’re glad we could get his career back on track with interventional orthopedics.