Bridging the gap between conservative care, which is traditional medicines and rehabilitation, and surgical options is stem cell therapy, according to a recent article published in the Strength and Conditioning Journal. The article, “Stem Cell Injections for Musculoskeletal Pathology: An Overview for Sports Medicine Professionals,” was authored by Morey Kolber, Paul Salamh, Joseph Purita, Bryan Sterling, Jaclyn Stermer, Michael Massaracchio and William Hanney. In the article, they sought to explain the science behind stem cell therapies for sports medicine professionals, according to Nova Southwest University Professor Morey Kolber.
Stem cell therapy, according to University of Indianapolis Assistant Professor of Physical Therapy Paul Salamh, is the act of taking stem cells that are in their infancy and have the opportunity to grow into new cells and placing them in a location in the body that needs them. Kolber said that this type of therapy may be an option to those that do not want to risk their health in surgery and those that conservative treatment has not worked for.
“Well up until now, there is no intermediate treatment between conservative care and surgical care,” Kolber said. “When people do not respond to conservative care, they’re often left with, wait and see or live with it. And there are a group of people who don’t want to take that next step and have surgery. Stem cell therapy and other regenerative medicine treatments bridge that gap.”
Stem cell therapy has certain attributes and benefits that make it a viable form of treatment, Kolber said. Physical therapy and stem cell therapy go hand-in-hand due to the nature of the treatment, Kolber said.
“I think the most important thing is that physical activity is most important and when we have an injury that impairs or restricts our physical activity, we want to find treatments that allow us to get back to physical activity as quickly as possible,” Kolber said. “And what’s nice about stem cell therapy is, not only is it encouraged, but it works very nicely alongside of rehabilitation.”
The group hoped to bring a basic understanding of stem cell therapy from a sports medicine orthopedic standpoint, without much opinion placed into it, according to Salamh. He said that with stem cells, and many other new ideas in science, there can be many misconceptions about what is and what is not true about stem cells. He said that the group, which was led by Kolber, wanted to limit those misconceptions.
“It was just basically a nice way to package everything that’s out there, kind of put it in a condensed version and give people an easy read to understand, sort of, currently where we are with stem cell regenerative medicine in the sports medicine field,” Salamh said.
Salamh said that the treatment has seen many challenges in the United States through the Federal Drug Administration and other agencies. There have also been arguments for and against stem cell research in the U.S.
“I think we face different challenges here in the United States than [in] other countries,” Salamh said. “Which is why you hear about some elite athletes going overseas to get different injections or you know, different things that we don’t offer here in the United States because our regulations are just different and some people feel they’re a little bit more strict.”
Stem cell therapy first became popular in April 2010, when MLB pitcher Bartolo Colón went to the Dominican Republic to receive treatments for his shoulder and elbow, according to Kolber.
Colon was treated by Joseph Purita, a doctor based out of Boca Raton, Florida, Kolber said. Kolber studied under Purita and that is where his passion for stem cell therapy came from, he said. Salamh said this form of treatment does not affect a players performance in a negative or positive way, but allows them to return to the game.
Kolber said that this treatment has come a long way in a short amount of time and that they have four times the research on it now than they did two years ago. He said that we are five to 10 years away from having a true understanding of the science behind stem cell therapies.