More than a hundred NFL players have turned to regenerative medicine, specifically stem cell therapy procedures, to stimulate advanced healing in their injuries. Sports writers have calculated that almost 6 players per NFL team have participated in stem cell therapy procedures. This would be about 192 players who have participated in these types of procedures; and the numbers keep growing.
Monday Morning Quarterback (MMQB) on Sports Illustrated dotcom stated that, “Peyton Manning reportedly tried a stem-cell treatment in Europe in 2011, his final year with the Colts, to fast-track his recovery from neck surgery. Giants cornerback Prince Amukamara had a slow-healing broken metatarsal treated with stem cells by a foot specialist in North Carolina after his team’s Super Bowl XLVI run. One NFL linebacker paid $6,000 a pop for a 1-milliliter vial of donated placenta tissue containing stem cells to be injected into each of his beat-up knees this off-season—but asked for his name not to be used in this story because he didn’t tell his team’s medical staff.”
Chris Johnson’s case is very similar to these. In 2013 he tore the meniscus in his knee and caused other damage in the joint. He played the season out and, through the wear and tear, lost a lot of cartilage. When off-season came he was in desperate need of therapy to repair the strain and torn meniscus. Besides doing an arthroscopic procedure to repair his meniscus, Chris Johnson went a little further and introduced stem cells to his knee joint to promote regeneration.
Johnson underwent a regenerative therapy procedure called bone marrow aspiration. This an outpatient procedure that is performed safely by a qualified physician. Johnson’s bone marrow was harvested from the iliac crest of his hip bone and then spun in a centrifuge to isolate the stem cells. These were the stem cells that were then introduced into his knee.
Stem cell therapy procedures are not mainstream; however, they have gained popularity with professional athletes all over the country. There are strict guidelines established by the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) that physicians must adhere to. Although the FDA recognizes these procedures, insurances will not pick up the bill, making them a cash-pay service.
The cost of a stem cell therapy procedure starts at about $3500 in the U.S., and can be anywhere from $15,000 to $30,000 overseas. Professional athletes who are facing career threatening ailments aren’t afraid to pay the price. Stem cell therapy procedures in the U.S. only refer to bone marrow aspiration, adipose (stem cells from fat tissue), or amniotic stem cells from a donor. For any other types of stem cell therapy procedures, you’d have to travel outside of the country to receive treatment. Chris Johnson, after receiving his stem cell therapy procedure, played the next season as if he hadn’t had a knee injury. Although his 2014 stats were low, due to less playing time, fans are excited to see what great things he’ll bring to NFL.