Stem Cell Therapy for Sports-Related Injuries


Sports, especially professional ones, are associated with falls, overstrains, and bumps that often lead to episodes of injury. Knee injuries, ankle sprains, and concussions are common outcomes in sports. Football, rugby, and basketball players, are among the athletes that are most exposed to the risk of trauma, although most sports are hazardous to a degree.

For professional athletes and others who are serious about going into a sport, severe injury means exemption from competition for an extended period. It can even be responsible for the premature end of their career. Also, it was demonstrated that the employment and salary of United States National Football League (NFL) players were significantly affected by devastating injuries when compared to their uninjured teammates.

Stem Cell Therapy for Sports-Related Injuries
A healthy body is a guarantee of sports achievement.

More and more athletes and their physicians consider stem cell therapy for sports injuries – a modern approach to regenerative medicine, that hastens healing and recovery after injury. Among them were such celebrated sports stars as tennis player Rafael Nadal and basketball player Kobe Bryant.

Traditional approaches to manage sports injuries

Minor injuries are usually managed according to the PRICE approach, which is:

  • Protection of the injured area from further impairment.
  • Rest means reducing physical activity.
  • Ice reduces pain and inflammation.
  • Compression with elastic bandages limits swelling.

Elevation above the level of the heart also helps reduce swelling.

Stem Cell Therapy for Sports-Related Injuries
Knee injuries, ankle sprains and concussions are common occurrences in athletes.

Aspirin, paracetamol, ibuprofen, and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications may be used for pain relief. In the case of severe inflammation and pain, corticosteroid injections are administered.

Physiotherapy plays a crucial role in promoting healing. Physiotherapists develop comprehensive treatment plans, which may include massage, manipulation, and exercise programs to strengthen muscles, improve the range of motion, and restore normal mechanical and physiological function.

Severe injuries such as badly broken bones or torn ligaments may require surgery. The complete recovery of physical activity may be time-consuming and take up to 12 months, depending on the severity of the injury.

Surgery may lead to biomechanical changes in the injured site, and the inflammation and even degradation of the tissue (necrosis) that follows can mean pain, lack of function, and the need for further surgery.

Regenerative medicine for sports injuries

Regenerative medicine offers an alternative to surgery. It utilizes stem cells, which are shown to decrease inflammation following an injury, improve associated pain, and repair damaged cartilage, bones, tendons, and muscles. This effect is provided by growth factors, cytokines, micro-RNAs, and other biologically-active molecules produced by stem cells. 

Stem cell sports injury treatment stimulates tissue regeneration (i.e. restoration of the affected organ function), by promoting neuronal growth, blood circulation, and muscle recovery. Stem cells also have a positive effect on the body as a whole by increasing productivity, endurance, energy, and activity; they reduce fatigue and improve some physiological parameters. The impact of stem cell therapy usually lasts for one to two years.

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Stem Cell Therapy for Sports-Related Injuries
Dr. Aleksandra Fetyukhina, MD

Medical Advisor, Swiss Medica doctor

The application of stem cells in different areas of sports medicine

The cell product most often used in regenerative medicine, for orthopedics purposes, is mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs). A certain amount of MSCs are found in most tissues in the body, but for treatment purposes, MSCs are mostly obtained from bone marrow or adipose tissue (fat). In some cases, donor cells from the placenta or umbilical cord may be used instead of or together with the patient’s cells. The ability of MSCs to migrate to damaged tissue and their role in its repair has been widely investigated.

Another cell product, the stromal vascular fraction (SVF), may provide the same benefits. This cell product is also obtained from the patient’s fat tissue. In addition to MSCs, it contains immune cells, fibroblasts, pericytes, endothelial progenitor cells, and other types of cells that are all involved in the regeneration process. SVF is the cell product mainly used for local administration; it is directly introduced into the damaged area. For the best systemic effect, it can be combined with an intravenous infusion of MSCs.

Stem Cell Therapy for Sports-Related Injuries
Local stem cell administration speeds up the healing of an injury by secreting biologically active molecules which regulate inflammation.

What types of sports injuries are treated with stem cells?

The successful application of stem cell sports injury treatment has been described in a range of orthopedic fields, such as:

Muscle recovery

The ability of skeletal muscles to regenerate after an injury is low and complete functional recovery remains challenging due to the development of scar tissue. The administration of MSCs accelerates muscle repair and enhances muscle force, as demonstrated in animal studies. The muscle-stimulating function of local stem cell administration improves physical performance, endurance, and productivity, which are vital for active training.

Meniscus repair

Meniscectomy is one of the most frequently performed surgical techniques to manage meniscus injury. However, it commonly leads to a change in biomechanical properties and may result in osteoarthritis. Stem cell therapy facilitates meniscus regeneration. Direct contact of MSCs to the meniscal cells, plus the soluble trophic factors produced by MSCs stimulate the meniscal repair processes using the resident meniscal cell populations.

Bone fractures

Modulation of inflammation is fundamental to standard bone repair. While it is local, it immediately initiates the repair cascade. At the same time, systemic (general) or chronic inflammation negatively impacts fracture healing outcomes as it increases fracture healing time and the rate of complications

MSCs’ immunomodulatory abilities are realized through the secretion of paracrine factors, and it supports their vital role in the bone healing process. Clinical trials have validated their safety and effectiveness as well as their potential use in cell-therapy purposes for bone diseases with an underlying inflammatory condition.

Nerve regeneration

The recovery from peripheral nerve injury is impacted by scar tissue development. Recent studies show that transplanted MSCs produce biologically active molecules, and secreting them in small vesicles promotes peripheral nerve regeneration and growth at the injured site.

Tendon and ligament repair

Usually, ligament and tendon rupture results in scar formation, which causes a deterioration in its original structure, composition, and function. This process is mediated by the inflammation reaction at the injured site. By modulating the inflammatory response, stem cell therapy for sports injuries can improve the healing process, which involves:

  • No scar formation;
  • Reduced inflammation;
  • Organized collagen fibers;
  • A restored concentration of type I collagen;
  • Restored mechanical function by mimicking native tissue.

Intervertebral disc, spine, and spinal cord injuries

Stem cell therapy for spinal cord injuries has been widely studied in animal models. It demonstrated that the direct injection of bone-marrow-derived MSCs, isolated from a cultured mononuclear layer to the spinal cord lesion can remyelinate spinal cord axons. MSCs mixed with minocycline improve spinal cord injury.

Rotator cuff repair

Between 30% and 94% of rotator cuff repairs result in failure, and the mechanical properties of the tissue after surgery are relatively weak. In studies with a rotator cuff model, the use of stem cells showed promising results, which was already confirmed by a study in humans. At the same time, using platelet-rich plasma (PRP) demonstrated controversial results, due to the variation in procedure protocols.

What are the results of stem cell therapy for sports injuries

Does stem cell therapy for sports injury work? This is a question that many people ask, and there’s no better way to answer this than to hear the words of an experienced healthcare professional; in this case, Dr. Igor Bolbukh.

Pain can be a big component of sports injuries, and in many cases, this pain might not respond to other treatments or may be chronic. In such cases, it becomes a good idea to explore treatment with MSCs. At the same time, pain management can make recovery faster by preventing the limits that pain might cause during physiotherapy and other therapeutic techniques.

Safety aspects of stem cell therapy

The safety of stem cell treatment in patients with different diseases was proved in several studies. The injection procedure is well tolerated in most patients with fever occurring rarely and resolving after a brief time. The patients were carefully observed at each step of the treatment procedure, and no severe side effects were reported.

Benefits of stem cell therapy for sports injuries

Sports injury stem cell therapy can provide a lot of benefits for athletes who have found themselves weighed down by the physical trauma and their careers at stake.

Some of the benefits that can be enjoyed include the following:

  1. Reduces inflammation in affected regions and thus relieves pain. It may also be protective against inflammation that may occur in the immediate future.
  2. Stem cells can make recovery faster and get athletes back on the field quicker than other forms of treatment might.
  3. Can promote regeneration of damaged muscle, ligament, bone, and even nerve tissue. This can help bypass the scar tissue that usually forms with natural healing.
  4. In some cases, it helps to avoid or delay the need of joint replacement surgery.
Stem Cell Therapy for Sports-Related Injuries
Physiotherapy plays a key role in healing promotion.

H2. What the treatment program includes

If you’re going for stem cell therapy for sports injuries you might have, it is important to know about what the main procedure involves. It can be broken down into the cell harvesting and administration stages.

The MSCs being used for the procedure can be gotten from your own body or donated from someone else’s tissues. Either way, the tissue will be harvested from an appropriate location like the bone marrow or fat. However, it needs to be properly cultured and processed before it can be used for treatment. This is when the stem cells are isolated from the rest of the tissue and grown to an appropriate amount for treatment. This can take as long as four weeks.

However, once this is done, the stem cells can be delivered into the body. At the same time, cell-based drugs from donated cells can be used immediately. The route of administration depends mostly on the condition being treated. In sports injury stem cell therapy, the cells are usually given intravenously but may also be directly injected into joint spaces and muscles. The intravenous infusion occurs with medical supervision over a couple of hours, and that is usually the longest part of the administration.

Additional treatment procedures

As well as the standard treatment programme, for the most beneficial results, complementary therapies may be required depending on the severity of the injury, overall health condition and other aspects. These are all taken into consideration when the individual therapy plan is developed. Swiss Medica offers various options to improve the result of stem cell treatment for sports injuries:

  • Kinesiotherapy;
  • Shockwave;
  • Super Inductive System (SIS);
  • Intracellular metabolism recovery (IMR) therapy;
  • Xenon therapy;
  • Hypoxia-hyperoxia therapy;
  • Mesodiencephalic modulation;
  • Plasma exchange (Stanford protocol);
  • Intravenous laser blood irradiation, and others.

Consultations with specialists in other medical areas (neurorehabilitation, psychology, nutrition) are also available.

Cost of stem cell therapy for sports injuries

You wondered, does stem cell therapy for sports injury work, and this article shows that it does and it is effective. The next question you’re probably asking is how much it costs.

The cost can vary widely depending on the patient being treated. How severe is their case, how old are they, and do they have any risk factors or comorbidities? All of these can alter how long their treatment will run and any additional procedures they may require.

The best way to find out how much you should expect to pay is by taking advantage of Swiss Medica’s free online consultation, where all your questions will be answered and you’ll be able to get a better idea of the cost and duration of treatment, and what it may include.

Get a free online consultation

Contact us to learn more about the ability of stem cells to treat sport-related injuries.

Stem Cell Therapy for Sports-Related Injuries
Dr. Aleksandra Fetyukhina, MD

Medical Advisor, Swiss Medica doctor

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  3. Matthews KRW and Cuchiara ML. U.S. National Football League Athletes Seeking Unproven Stem Cell Treatment. Stem Cells Dev. 2014 Dec 1; 23(Suppl 1): 60–64.

  4. National Health Service (UK).

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  6. Fu X et al. Mesenchymal Stem Cell Migration and Tissue Repair. Cells. 2019 Aug; 8(8): 784.

  7. Peçanha R et al. Adipose-derived stem-cell treatment of skeletal muscle injury. J Bone Joint Surg Am. 2012 Apr 4;94(7):609-17.

  8. Qazi TH et al. Cell therapy to improve regeneration of skeletal muscle injuries. J Cachexia Sarcopenia Muscle. 2019 Jun; 10(3): 501–516.

  9. Melrose J. Meniscus of the Knee – Function, Pathology and Management. Novel Approaches in Meniscal Repair Utilizing Mesenchymal Stem Cells, New Generation Bioscaffolds and Biological Adhesives as Cell Delivery Vehicles. 2018.

  10. Claes, L.; Recknagel, S.; Ignatius, A. Fracture healing under healthy and inflammatory conditions. Nat Rev Rheumatol. 2012, 8, 133–143.

  11. Dalia Medhat D, Rodríguez CI and Infante A. Immunomodulatory Effects of MSCs in Bone Healing. Int J Mol Sci. 2019 Nov; 20(21): 5467.

  12. Linero I and Chaparro O. Paracrine Effect of Mesenchymal Stem Cells Derived from Human Adipose Tissue in Bone Regeneration. PLoS One. 2014; 9(9): e107001.

  13. Zheng Ch et al. Stem cell-based bone and dental regeneration: a view of microenvironmental modulation. Int J Oral Sci. 2019 Sep; 11(3): 23.

  14. Dong R et al. MSC-Derived Exosomes-Based Therapy for Peripheral Nerve Injury: A Novel Therapeutic Strategy. Biomed Res Int. 2019; 2019: 6458237.

  15. Sowa Y et al. Adipose-Derived Stem Cells Promote Peripheral Nerve Regeneration In Vivo without Differentiation into Schwann-Like Lineage. Plast Reconstr Surg. 2016 Feb;137(2):318e-330e.

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  17. Chen D et al. Bone marrow mesenchymal stem cells combined with minocycline improve spinal cord injury in a rat model. Int J Clin Exp Pathol. 2015 Oct 1;8(10):11957-69. eCollection 2015.

  18. Ellera Gomes JL et al. Conventional rotator cuff repair complemented by the aid of mononuclear autologous stem cells. Knee Surg Sports Traumatol Arthrosc. 2012 Feb;20(2):373-7.

  19. Huang NF and Li S. Mesenchymal stem cells for vascular regeneration. Regen Med. 2008 Nov; 3(6): 877–892.

  20. Ciervo Y, Ning K, Jun X, Shaw PJ, Mead RJ. Advances, challenges and future directions for stem cell therapy in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Mol Neurodegener. 2017 Nov 13;12(1):85.

  21. Dahbour et al. Mesenchymal stem cells and conditioned media in the treatment of multiple sclerosis patients: Clinical, ophthalmological and radiological assessments of safety and efficacy. CNS Neurosci Ther. 2017 Nov; 23(11): 866–874.

  22. Hare JM. A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, dose-escalation study of intravenous adult human mesenchymal stem cells (prochymal) after acute myocardial infarction. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2009;54:2277–86.

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Medical Advisor, Swiss Medica doctor

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