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Sports Stars and Stem Cell Therapy


Treating sports injuries and recovering from extensive competition with stem cell therapy is a procedure normally reserved for top athletes competing at the highest level of competition. But, with prices coming down and it becoming more available – are we going to see a rise of sports stars using the treatment?

Stem cell therapy for athletes sounds like cheating and was a once frowned upon practice that is still, in parts,  misunderstood. You’d associate this type of treatment with athletes you’d see on television, in advertising campaigns and who are sponsored by the biggest brands around. Now widely accepted, sports bodies across professional athletes (including regulators and organizations) all allow the process and the number of athletes that partake in this therapy is quickly on the rise.

What is stem cell therapy?

Stem-cell therapy is the use of stem cells to treat or prevent a disease or condition. Also known as regenerative medicine, it promotes the reparative response of diseased, dysfunctional or injured tissue using stem cells. It is widely regarded as the next step of organ transplantation but uses cells instead of organs.

Researchers grow stem cells in a lab. These stem cells are manipulated to specialize into specific types of cells (such as heart muscle cells, blood cells or nerve cells). These cells are then injected into a person and the healthy cells help repair damaged cells or heal diseased cells.

In recent years, stem-cell clinics have advanced in technology and can now provide procedures for patients to use their own stem cells. A lot of success has been found recently from injecting a specific type of stem cell (mesenchymal stem cells) directly into the joint or affected area – notably for athletes to recover from osteoskeletal (bone, joint and connective tissue) related injuries. This new development is a non-invasive technique developed for easier clinical use; hence the rise in popularity.

What type of athletes use stem cell therapy?

It’s reported that over 100 National Football League (NFL) players in America have tried stem cell therapy in the past few years in aid to recovery, speed up healing or to rebuild damaged muscles or tissue.

Stem cell therapy has even been sought out by the world’s most famous sports star Christiano Ronaldo. In 2016, he undertook treatment for a torn hamstring in aid to heal or recover sooner to partake in a Champions League match, a competition they went on to win. The level of performance  Ronaldo has been achieving over the past few years has been second to none.

Tennis star Rafael Nadal has also been reported to have used the therapy twice; once on a knee and the other on a back problem. Since having both therapies, he has gone on to win major tournaments and become world number 1 tennis player on more than one occasion. If it’s good enough for the world’s best athletes who are advised by the finest experts available then we believe it will soon become the norm in a sport for this procedure as the benefits start to be realised, the cost comes down and effects and proven.

Heal or repair breaks

One of the major promises for stem cells is that they hold the promise to heal or repair bones. For a sports star, a broken bone means weeks out of competition or sometimes the end of their career (depending on the severity of the break). Stem cell treatment cutting down the healing time of this is fast becoming a viable option and has already taken place in clinical trials.

It seems that stem cell therapy is finally becoming more mainstream for athletes, giving them that innovative edge over their competitors and could soon become normal practice in non-sport related injuries. As clinical trials continue, results are promising and technology advances at an astonishing rate.