I was honored to be invited to speak in front of 300-400 team doctors at the NFL Physician’s Society Scientific Session at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis on Feb 25th. The talk on NFL stem cell therapy was well received and I think educational for these doctors, as they’re getting bombarded by requests from their players for this technology. This is the talk that I presented on the top ten things they need to know about stem cell treatments in the NFL.
Stem Cell Use in Treating NFL Injuries
So what did I tell these physicians about NFL stem cell therapy? Basically that there is mounting evidence that stem cells work well for some common NFL injuries. Having said that, I tried to help them separate hype from reality, as these players are bombarded by influencers who rarely know which end is up when it comes to this new tech.
For example, we have reasonable research that bone marrow stem cells work to help arthritis symptoms. There are three, smaller randomized controlled trials and our very large prospective case series of 840 patients. Having said that, there are no shortage of doctors hawking “amniotic stem cells” to players when in fact the products that they’re using contain no viable stem cells, let alone living cells (i.e. it’s all dead or dying tissue).
Another example is the fiction that fat contains many, many more stem cells than bone marrow, based on a 5th grade math error. Basically, these stem cell numbers for fat vs. marrow are presented as a percentage of stem cells to nucleated cells in the tissue and bone marrow has many, many more nucleated cells, making a percentage comparison nonsensical. In addition, bone marrow has many, many more hematopoietic stem cells that are thought to be helpful for muscle repair.
The upshot? I hope I was able educate a few team physicians on NFL stem cell therapy and how to separate the hype from reality. Stem cells are a great tool to help NFL players return to the field more quickly, but that’s only if they avoid the fake therapies and focus on what’s real in 2016!