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Sports-related injuries happen every day and at any age. Typical injuries include: ankle sprains, tennis/golfer’s elbow and rotator cuff tears. With so many options out there, how do you choose the right treatment? Surgery is an option, but there is an alternative, a nonsurgical approach using the patient’s own platelets or stem cells to help heal the injury naturally.

First up, ankle sprains.
Ankle sprains are commonly seen in basketball, football and volleyball players, but also can happen just stepping off a curb. When we sprain our ankles, we typically roll our foot to the inside stretching the ligaments and tendons that support the outside of the ankle and foot. Sprains weaken the stability of the joint. Treatment for chronic ankle sprains is prolotherapy. What is prolotherapy? It is a precise injection, under guidance, of a mild irritant solution (we typically use dextrose or sugar water) directly on the site of the torn or stretched ligament. Prolotherapy creates mild irritation that stimulates the body’s natural healing to lay down new tissue on the weakened area. The ankle tendons and ligaments become stronger and stronger with each prolotherapy session. Typically prolotherapy takes 1-3 sessions to see improvement.

Next, tennis/golfers elbow.
This usually occurs with repetitive motions of the wrist and arm. The elbow becomes quite painful and is inflamed. As the name of the injury implies, it is commonly seen in tennis players and golfers, but also in rowing/crew and even with certain occupations such as painters and carpenters. The elbow becomes quite painful and is inflamed. Treatment typically includes an injection of super concentrated platelets (SCP). The super concentrated platelets contain healing growth components that increase the body’s natural ability to repair itself. This involves drawing the patient’s blood, processing it and reinjection the patient’s own platelets to the painful area. The lateral epicondyle (or the outside of the elbow) is visualized on the ultrasound screen. The platelets are injected directly onto the epicondyle and the healing process begins.

Lastly, rotator cuff tears.
This shoulder injury can commonly occur in baseball pitchers or weightlifters, but also can occur from a fall or from gradual degeneration/aging. The best treatment for rotator cuff tears is stem cell treatment. The patient’s own stem cells or “natural repair cells” are used to promote healing. This process is 3 steps, involving three separate visits to our office. Yes, the treatment includes 3 different days of treatment, but does NOT involve a hospital stay, incisions or stiches! First, the joint, tendon and ligaments are treated with prolotherapy. Yes, the same prolotherapy that was reviewed in the ankle sprain section! The area is primed with the prolotherapy irritating the surface of the areas to be treated creating a sticky matrix to which the stem cells will be attracted. Next, is the stem cell day, Day 2. Stem cells are unique in the fact that they become what we need them to be depending on where they are placed. So for example, the rotator cuff is torn and is in need of ligamentous fibers. Stem cells are harvested from an area known to be rich in the stem cells, the iliac crest, or the upper portion of the hip. Then, the cells are processed and concentrated in the lab. Then, they are injected under x-ray guidance to the exact area of the tear. The third day involves super concentrated platelets (just as reviewed in the tennis/golfer’s elbow section). We draw your blood, isolating the platelets. Under ultrasound guidance, these platelets are injected into the shoulder. The platelets serve as a fertilizer for the stem cells to promote growth and healing.

Before you consider surgery for your sports-related injury, take a look at this nonsurgical treatment option that uses the body’s natural healing properties to combat the injury. No surgery involved, no knives and no hospital stays! All treatments are performed by visualizing the problem area under ultrasound or fluoroscopy/x-ray. By seeing the tear, joint or ligament on the screen the needle can precisely treat the exact spot(s) that needs attention. Learn more about this alternative by calling us today at 412-963-6480 or joining us at one of our upcoming seminars!

– Sarah Rowling, PA-C

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