Humans have over 10 trillion individual cells. Some regenerate faster than others and some do not regenerate at all. As we age the regeneration process slows down. With time the cells die at a faster rate than the new ones being born.
Current research in regenerative medicine is showing promising results in using stem cells and PRPs (platelet-rich-plasma) to facilitate the restoration of healthy tissues. Stem cells can come from an embryo and can develop to any cell of the body. Adult stem cells are found through the adult and juvenile body but can only replicate into a limited type of cells.
Stem cells are currently used to help repair diseased tissue in the body by injecting them to the injured site. The preliminary evidence is showing promising results in the healing abilities of these virgin cells in the treatment of osteoarthritis and other sports injuries.
Stem cell treatment is not FDA approved yet and the debate whether it ever will be is still on the table.
PRPs are a blood derivative. Plasma is the part of the blood that remains after the red, white and platelets are removed. Plasma is rich in enzymes and proteins with healing capabilities. Similarly to stem cell treatment, the plasma is injected into the injured site with the intention to trigger the healing process of the tissue. Recent research has shown promising results in the use of PRPs to treat knee osteoarthritis and degenerative changes of the spine. In terms of PRP use for acute injuries such as tendon repair or post-surgical regeneration more studies need to be conducted to compile conclusive data.
Whether an athlete is a candidate for stem cell or PRP procedure depends on many factors and the best first step is an assessment by a qualified physician. In my quest to find answers regarding regenerative medicine that I have been frequently asked by my patients and athletes, I stumbled upon Dr. Sonja Stilp (RISE), who is a local-to-Boulder physiatrist and has been on the forefront of regenerative medicine research.
While we do not have the highest level of research available yet, we have enough promising evidence, according to Stilp, that we can be hopeful about the future of regenerative medicine and the role it will play in treating degenerative changes in the body.
Being an athlete, mother and a working individual, Coach Martina is aware that time limitations can be a struggle and a source of frustration for most typical age group athletes. Therefore, she places a lot of importance not only in gathering objective data, such as lactate threshold, from the athlete but also subjective information such as routines and stressors that an athlete faces on a daily basis. Finding a healthy balance to fulfill the needs of “athletic” and “non-athletic” self is a form of art that requires attention to detail and commitment to perfection, both of which I am proud to offer as a USAT Certified Coach and Doctor of Physical Therapy.