Nearly one year ago, the Anaheim Angels announced that two of their top pitchers, Andrew Heaney and Garrett Rogers, had undergone stem cell therapy to treat damage to the ulnar collateral ligaments in the elbows of their throwing arms. The announcement wasn’t much of a surprise to Major League Baseball, but it was somewhat shocking elsewhere. The sports world was immediately put on notice that teams were willing to openly discuss players using alternative forms of medicine to address injuries.
At Apex Biologix, a company that trains doctors in the use of regenerative medicine, the Angels’ announcement was also no surprise. Apex Biologix has already worked with hundreds of doctors and clinics, some of which specialize in sports medicine. They are fully aware of the potential of stem cell therapy as an alternative to Tommy John surgery for baseball pitchers. It is their opinion that stem cell therapy is disrupting baseball and the way it looks at sports injuries.
Apex Biologix cites three specific ways stem cell therapy is disrupting baseball:
1. It Is Extending Careers
Imagine being a successful MLB pitcher for years. Then one day you start feeling a nagging pain in your throwing elbow. You know what that pain implies: ligament damage that could eventually lead to Tommy John surgery. You quickly find yourself weighing the risks of playing through the pain or electing to have surgery. Neither option holds much promise for extending your career.
Stem cell therapy can do what Tommy John surgery cannot: encourage the body to heal itself. Dozens of professional baseball players have already extended their careers through stem cell therapy. Others have embraced regenerative medicine and avoided surgery as a result. As more players embrace it, regenerative medicine will extend more careers.
2. It Is Saving Money
Stem cell therapy is disrupting baseball in a big financial way. First and foremost, teams spending tens of millions of dollars on star players are not seeing that money go up in smoke by a player sidelined with a season-ending injury. Yes, they still have to pay for replacements, but owners save money by getting their star players back on the field more quickly.
Financial savings are also observed in terms of paying for treatments. Stem cell therapy is but a fraction of the cost of Tommy John surgery and subsequent rehab. It is also cheaper than eating the balance of guaranteed money should a player undergo surgery and still be forced into retirement.
3. It Is Reducing Pain Medication Use
Baseball fans would probably be surprised to learn how many of their favorite players use pain medication to play through the pain of injury until after the season is over. Use of pain medication may not be as prevalent in baseball as it is in some other sports, but it is still real nonetheless.
Stem cell therapy and other regenerative medicine procedures can reduce the necessity of pain medication by promoting natural healing. By promoting the growth of healthy tissue to replace that which is damaged or lost, the body actually heals from the injury being treated. As healing progresses, less pain medication is required.
To say that stem cell therapy and other regenerative medicine procedures are disrupting baseball is to state the obvious. Since last year’s news from the Angels, numerous other teams have revealed the names of scores of players who have also sought similar treatments. It is turning out to be a very big thing for baseball. Fortunately, what clinicians are learning from sports medicine applications is transferable to other applications outside of sports.