At Apex Biologix, doctors from multiple disciplines assemble several times per year to learn how to use platelet-rich plasma (PRP) and stem cell therapies for orthopedic, wound recovery, pain management, and aesthetic applications. Many of the doctors who train with Apex specialize in sports medicine. They come to learn about regenerative medicine in the hope of helping their clients remain competitive.
The idea of using stem cell and PRP therapy to treat injured athletes comes as no surprise to anyone who follows professional sports. In fact, it only takes a simple internet search to find a lengthy list of professional baseball and football players who have already received, and benefitted from, PRP injections. Yet skeptics of regenerative medicine still abound. They seem to look at professional athletes as anecdotes rather than evidence. But are they?
A Benefit and a Curse
One of the primary benefits of stem cell and PRP therapies, from a regulatory standpoint, is that the patients themselves provide the material used for injections. Stem cell and PRP procedures do not have to be highly regulated as a result. But this primary benefit can also be a curse in the sense that the therapies are now widely used in many areas of medicine without decades of government approved studies behind them. This only fuels speculation as to whether regenerative medicine really works or not.
From Apex Biologix’ perspective, the prevalence of things such as PRP and stem cell therapy goes beyond mere anecdote to present a real-world testing environment in which patients are experiencing impressive results. Practitioners of regenerative medicine are merely building on one success after another with each patient treated.
What skeptics of regenerative medicine often fail to consider is the fact that clinical trials, though closely controlled, involve human patients agreeing to be test subjects. Clinical studies required to test the efficacy and safety of a new drug, for example, need to be tightly controlled due to the simple fact that the drug being tested is a foreign substance being introduced to the body. Regenerative medicine is vastly different.
As regenerative medicine uses a patient’s own blood or stem cells, nothing foreign is being introduced. Practitioners are merely concentrating the material taken from one part of the body and injecting it into another. This all but eliminates the risk of rejection or other complications, therefore eliminating the need for tightly controlled clinical studies to ensure safety. Patients receiving the treatments act as their own test participants to determine the efficacy of the procedures they are undergoing.
Athletes Willing to Embrace Regenerative Medicine
It turns out that professional athletes are willing to embrace PRP and stem cell therapies because they have a vested interest in doing so. Take the average baseball pitcher, for example. Tommy John surgery is a major procedure that can sideline a pitcher for an entire season or longer. If PRP injections can mitigate the need for surgery and help keep the pitcher competitive, they are well worth a try. PRP therapy is not going to make things worse. On the other hand, it could eliminate the need for invasive surgery.
Critics of regenerative medicine may view professional athletes as mere anecdotes in an area of medicine that is as exciting as it is new and emerging. But proponents and practitioners of PRP and stem cell therapies see them as evidence that such therapies work as intended. Athletes do what they do because remaining competitive is their livelihood. And because more of them are finding regenerative medicine works for them, others are being encouraged to embrace it as well.