Athletes with Sports Injuries Don’t Have to Settle for Slow Recovery Times

By Chris Centeno, MD /

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athlete sports injury recovery times

It’s a typical scene these days. You follow a sports team and want them to make it to the playoffs this year. Then an injury happens to one of their superstar athletes and the team falls apart because the player will miss the rest of the season due to surgery. Is there a better way? Can that injured player avoid surgery and come back quicker?

Sports injuries and pain can bench even the strongest athletes, and recovery times for those choosing the traditional surgical approach can be lengthy. For athletes used to routine and often heavy training schedules, these long recovery times can be frustrating at best. And in many cases, once an athlete goes “under the knife” for an injury, a return to his or her full athletic ability prior to the injury is unlikely. In regenerative medicine, with customized and advanced orthobiologics and intervetional orthopedics, many athletes with sports injuries don’t have to settle for slow recovery times.

Orthobiologics include a broad range of nonsurgical treatments (e.g., platelet rich plasma [PRP], stem cells, platelet lysate, cytokine products, etc.) for orthopedic injuries. For an injured athlete whose goal is to get off the bench and back in the game faster, it’s a good idea to explore your orthobiolgics options.

Which Athletes Most Benefit from Stem Cells and PRP?

At Regenexx we’ve treated many athletes, from the professional-level athlete (NFL, MLB, NBA, etc.) to college and even high school athletes. We also see athletes from just about any sport or fitness activity (e.g., soccer, volleyball, body building, hockey, baseball, weight lifting, CrossFit, football, golf, and so on). Any athlete could potentially be a candidate for a stem cell or PRP procedure. Watch the short video below to take a tour of our hall of professional athletes who have benefited from these regenerative procedures:


Follow the links below to get a more detailed look at the stories of individual athletes who have had success with our advanced orthobiologics options:

Athletes Who Want to Spend a Few Months Warming the Bench Get Surgery

Surgery is a big deal, whether the approach is open (cutting open the skin and tissue to reach the injured site) or arthroscopic (inserting instruments through a scope through puncture wounds in the skin). Both are very invasive, and both require lengthy recovery times depending on the procedure. In addition, once something is cut or removed (pieces of the meniscus for example), it can often never be put back the way it’s supposed to be, making a return to full function difficult at best, but in many cases, impossible. The surgical recovery time for a dislocated shoulder, for example can be 3–6 months, and still movement would be limited. Full recovery, if it ever happens at all, could take up to 12 months.

Surgery on the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is another good example. NBA players as a whole tend to suffer a lot of ACL tears, and surgery on the ACL can result in players being benched for six months or longer. In addition, at that point, they may not even have recovered half of what they were capable of before they were injured.

Slow recovery times aren’t the only problem—reinjuries are common following surgery as well. Rotator cuff tears, for example, have been shown to retear in 6 out of 10 patients undergoing rotator cuff surgery. Constant reinjuries not only add to recovery time but can end a professional athlete’s career.

When we read about or hear about athletes getting surgery, it’s always that same song and dance: they’ve tried everything—therapeutic massage, physical therapy, steroid injections, and on and on. Surgery is their “last resort.” But the truth is, unless they’ve already seen an experienced, interventional orthopedic physician who’s said stem cells or platelets can’t help (there are some severe conditions that truly do require surgery), surgery may not be the last resort.

Athletes Who Want to Get Back in the Game Faster Get Stem Cells or PRP

Let’s take another look at our ACL example, but from the other side, the nonsurgical regenerative-medicine side. The common traditional belief is that ACL ligament tears don’t heal. However, there have been recent advances showing MRI evidence of ligaments looking more like normal ligaments after a precise stem cell injection. We are the group that pioneered this technique. In addition, we have a lot of experience with returning our athletes to play quickly, and particularly with ACL stem cell injections, our athletes seem to get off the bench much faster than they do following surgery. Just look at the chart below comparing ACL surgery to ACL stem cell or PRP treatments (click on it to enlarge).

acl-surgery-return-to-sports

The upshot? Over the years, we have treated many professional athletes, such as MLB and NHL players, as well as nonprofessional athletes who are simply dedicated to their sports or fitness goals. Some are high school or college athletes on the sure path to the NFL or some other professional league, while others are competitive fitness professionals or even middle-aged competitive athletes determined to stay strong and fit as they age. We’ve seen many, many success stories from our athlete patients following their treatment with stem cells, platelets, or other advanced orthobiologics. And in our opinion, when it comes to our athlete patients, nothing measures success better than a happy, pain-free athlete who’s back in the game.

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2 thoughts on “Athletes with Sports Injuries Don’t Have to Settle for Slow Recovery Times

  1. Maria Smith Johnson

    Very, very interesting insight. Do you have any other sources for me to read further and to be able to dig a little deeper?

Chris Centeno, MD

Regenexx Founder

Chris Centeno, MD is a specialist in regenerative medicine and the new field of Interventional Orthopedics. Centeno pioneered orthopedic stem cell procedures in 2005 and is responsible for a large amount of the published research on stem cell use for orthopedic applications.
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Regenerative procedures are commonly used to treat musculoskelatal trauma, overuse injuries, and degenerative issues, including failed surgeries.
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Shoulder

Shoulder

Many Shoulder and Rotator Cuff injuries are good candidates for regenerative treatments. Before considering shoulder arthroscopy or shoulder replacement, consider an evaluation of your condition with a regenerative treatment specialist.

  • Rotator Cuff Tears and Tendinitis
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Cervical Spine

Spine

Many spine injuries and degenerative conditions are good candidates for regenerative treatments and there are a number of studies showing promising results in treating a wide range of spine problems. Spine surgery should be a last resort for anyone, due to the cascade of negative effects it can have on the areas surrounding the surgery. And epidural steroid injections are problematic due to their long-term negative impact on bone density.

  • Herniated, Bulging, Protruding Discs
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  • And more
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Knee

Knees

Knees are the target of many common sports injuries. Sadly, they are also the target of a number of surgeries that research has frequently shown to be ineffective or minimally effective. Knee arthritis can also be a common cause for aging athletes to abandon the sports and activities they love. Regenerative procedures can be used to treat a wide range of knee injuries and conditions. They can even be used to reduce pain and delay knee replacement for more severe arthritis.

  • Knee Meniscus Tears
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  • Knee Instability
  • Knee Osteoarthritis
  • Other Knee Ligaments / Tendons & Overuse Injuries
  • And more
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Lower Spine

Spine

Many spine injuries and degenerative conditions are good candidates for regenerative treatments and there are a number of studies showing promising results in treating a wide range of spine problems. Spine surgery should be a last resort for anyone, due to the cascade of negative effects it can have on the areas surrounding the surgery. And epidural steroid injections are problematic due to their long-term negative impact on bone density.

  • Herniated, Bulging, Protruding Discs
  • Degenerative Disc Disease
  • SI Joint Syndrome
  • Sciatica
  • Pinched Nerves and General Back Pain
  • And more
Learn More
Hand & Wrist

Hand & Wrist

Hand and wrist injuries and arthritis, carpal tunnel syndrome, and conditions relating to overuse of the thumb, are good candidates for regenerative treatments. Before considering surgery, consider an evaluation of your condition with a regenerative treatment specialist.
  • Hand and Wrist Arthritis
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Trigger Finger
  • Thumb Arthritis (Basal Joint, CMC, Gamer’s Thumb, Texting Thumb)
  • Other conditions that cause pain
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Elbow

Elbow

Most injuries of the elbow’s tendons and ligaments, as well as arthritis, can be treated non-surgically with regenerative procedures.

  • Golfer’s elbow & Tennis elbow
  • Arthritis
  • Ulnar collateral ligament wear (common in baseball pitchers)
  • And more
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Hip

Hip

Hip injuries and degenerative conditions become more common with age. Do to the nature of the joint, it’s not quite as easy to injure as a knee, but it can take a beating and pain often develops over time. Whether a hip condition is acute or degenerative, regenerative procedures can help reduce pain and may help heal injured tissue, without the complications of invasive surgical hip procedures.

  • Labral Tear
  • Hip Arthritis
  • Hip Bursitis
  • Hip Sprain, Tendonitis or Inflammation
  • Hip Instability
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Foot & Ankle

Foot & Ankle

Foot and ankle injuries are common in athletes. These injuries can often benefit from non-surgical regenerative treatments. Before considering surgery, consider an evaluation of your condition with a regenerative treatment specialist.
  • Ankle Arthritis
  • Plantar fasciitis
  • Ligament sprains or tears
  • Other conditions that cause pain
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