Whether professionals or just weekend warriors, athletes put tremendous strain on their bodies. For those who play sports like football, basketball or soccer — where contact and collisions are certain — injuries are virtually guaranteed.
Not long ago, a single serious injury could end the career of a star athlete or a recreational athlete. Today, there are doctors who specialize in treating sports injuries and the associated pain. As a result, advances in the treatment of injuries is allowing professionals and hobbyists to return to the sports they love even after major trauma.
Here are examples of some of those advanced medical options largely unavailable a few years ago.
Stem cell, blood and bone marrow procedures
In 2011, aging superstar quarterback Peyton Manning and NBA All-Star Kobe Bryant traveled to Europe for a cutting-edge medical treatment involving stem cells injected into the injured area.
In addition to Manning and Bryant, New York Mets pitcher Bartolo Colon also underwent the procedure. Today,similar procedures are being performed in the U.S. primarily in the knee, shoulder, and hip joints.
Amateur athletes have an advantage if they elect to have stem cell or blood platelet therapies. A New York Daily News article by Christian Red explains that these treatments are often more effective when combined with injections of human growth hormone, something that is banned for most professional athletes because it is considered a performance-enhancing substance. An even more cutting edge option is to combine the stem cell therapy with growth factors from donated amniotic tissue from live c-section births. This very special tissue has over 300 very unique growth factors that magnify the effect of stem cell therapy.
Under normal conditions, fluid in the knee acts like a shock absorber to lubricate the joint and to help the joint work properly. When a knee has overuse injuries or osteoarthritis, fluid can disappear, leading to friction and pain. With this procedure, a replacement viscous fluid is injected into the joint to cushion the cartilage and allow the joint to move smoothly.
WebMD reports after viscosupplementation injections, pain typically dissipates in 4-12 weeks, and the relief can last several months. The treatment can be repeated as necessary.
With this treatment, a doctor uses a fluoroscope (X-ray) to direct a special needle alongside the nerves that are transmitting pain. During the process, a small electrical current is sent through the needle to help recreate the usual pain and cause a muscle twitch in the neck or back, helping the physician know if he or she has found the correct spot.
When the right location is pinpointed, radio-frequency waves create heat at the tip of the needle, and the resulting heat lesion on the nerve disrupts the nerve’s ability to send pain signals. This therapy is now utilized to treat bone on bone pain in knees as a substitute for total knee replacement. A great option for those who do not qualify for a total knee replacement because of other health conditions or circumstances.
Injections and nerve blocks
Today, a variety of injections can help reduce or eliminate pain from sports injuries. As an example, an epidural steroid injection can relieve neck, arm, back and low back and leg pain caused by inflamed spinal nerves. Powerful anti-inflammatory steroid medication is injected to spinal nerve roots through the space between the protective coverings of the spinal cord and the vertebrae.
Nerve blocks can be used to diagnose the location of chronic pain as well as for treatment of conditions like sciatica pain. Anesthetics and steroids are injected into a nerve to block pain signals. Pain relief from these treatments can last from several days to years.
If pain is preventing you from participating activities you enjoy, you should consult with a medical professional experienced in dealing with pain management. There are many treatments available today that can return you to running, tennis, basketball or whatever you have been missing. You don’t have to be a professional athlete to take advantage of the latest medical procedures.
Dr. Alex Bigham is the owner and CEO of Novocur Pain Management Clinics and has over 18 years of healthcare experience in private practice and Ambulatory Surgical Center settings. Novocur offers advanced treatment options in a concierge type practice without the concierge price tag. Dr. Bigham appears frequently on local TV and radio programs to discuss the latest in Pain Management or related health topics.
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