Good News for Stem Cell Treatment on Elbows

One of the perennial questions faced by professional baseball pitchers is how long they will be able to do what they do. Pitching is extremely traumatic on the joints and ligaments of the shoulder and elbow, a fact which has led to many calls for limiting the pitch count of younger players.

But once a player is in the big leagues, he doesn’t have the luxury of sitting a few games out when he’s tired. Pros face all the same health issues as younger athletes, and the consequences can be punishing. When joints give out entirely, pitchers have traditionally been faced with two prospects: Tommy John surgery, or retirement.

But platelet rich plasma (PRP) may represent a Third Way, one which extends careers without extending time in recovery. As the Los Angeles Angels’ Garrett Richards recently discovered, the bounce-back can be astoundingly swift:

Instead of electing to undergo standard Tommy John surgery, Richards decided to try to heal his injury by getting an injection of stem cells directly into his elbow. . . . Gross, but it apparently worked. Passan reports Richards is feeling great and throwing 98 mph at spring training. Richards is clearly pleased with the tentatively positive outcome: “Science, bro. I’m a believer now,” Richards told Passan.

This isn’t the same response that everyone will have, of course. But it is an encouraging sign for this still-novel procedure, one that could soon be a common treatment for elbow pain that helps athletes young and old heal faster and play longer.

A Good Outcome: Platelet Rich Plasma for Knee Pain

One of the services that we offer here at the San Diego Orthopedic Surgery Center is platelet rich plasma, or PRP. These are injections which are essentially comprised of the patient’s own blood, spun and purified to deliver healing platelet cells at the site of an injury.

The jury is still out on whether PRP works for everyone, and some of the mechanisms behind it remain poorly understood. But some patients experience dramatic healing and recovery with the injections, reporting a renewed mobility and comfort within a matter of weeks, even when other therapies failed to produce results for years. For instance:

Two days later, Dr. Jason Tucker treated both his knees on the same day. And two weeks later, the swelling around Zeledon’s knees was down, he walked steadily with braces, and felt no pain.

Stories such as these get added to the basket of anecdotal evidence suggesting that PRP seems to help people in many cases. And when PRP can’t do the job alone, it can be combined with supplemental measures such as the use of hydraluric acid (HLA) to keep the joints moving freely:

Whalen said he doesn’t advise using PRP alone for osteoarthritis, commonly known as “wear-and-tear arthritis.” But he said PRP could be used in conjunction with hyaluronic acid, a substance that occurs naturally in the body and helps lubricate the joint.

My orthopedic surgery practice offers the cutting edge in treatment modalities for knee pain, elbow pain, shoulder pain, and similar complaints. If you have pain and want to try the standard in orthopedic care, please reach out today.

Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) As An Alternative to Shoulder Surgery

We orthopedic surgeons have made great strides in recent decades in our quest to reduce the recovery time associated with shoulder surgery. Earlier procedures were considered highly invasive, while today’s arthroscopic tools and therapeutic measures have made the recovery process for easier for everyone involved.

But what if you could forgo surgery altogether, and simply accelerate your body’s natural healing mechanisms? This is the goal behind platelet-rich plasma, or PRP, a procedure which involves injecting concentrated blood cells at the site of an injury to promote faster healing:

The procedure involves collecting several ounces of blood from a patient’s arm, spinning the blood in a centrifuge to concentrate the platelets and injecting the concentrated platelets into the injury site to stimulate healing. Platelets, the blood cells that promote clotting, contain hundreds of proteins, called growth factors, that are important in repairing injuries.

PRP has been used to some good effect in shoulder injuries, knee injuries, and assorted orthopedic twists and tears. The jury is still out on whether it works for everyone all the time, but plenty of anecdotal accounts such as this one suggest many patients are pleased with the results.

The American Orthopedic and Sports Medicine Center here in San Diego offers the latest and most effective treatments for shoulder pain, knee pain, and a variety of orthopedic complaints. Call us today to learn more.