By Dr. Pradeep Mahajan
Contrary to the name ‘sports injuries,’ these injuries can happen even if a person is not active in sports. The term has been given only to denote the type of injuries that are commonly seen among athletes and other sportspersons. Sports injuries include bruises, muscle strain, ligament/tendon tears, certain fractures, etc. You might have heard of tennis elbow, ACL tear, Achilles tendinitis, etc. Many a times, such injuries happen gradually due to overuse but can also occur suddenly due to a fall or any other trauma.
In recent times, we have seen an increase in the number of people—young and old alike—going to the gym and participating in marathons or in weekend sporting activities. Thus, the incidence of sports injuries is increasing, as in many cases, people fail to warm-up, maintain correct form/posture, and prepare properly before getting involved in such activities. Having said this, it is also possible to be injured while walking, say for example, a sprain if we bend our ankle while climbing up or down the stairs. In short, the cause can vary, but ultimately the symptoms are pain, swelling, and movement restriction. Many sports injuries take several months to heal with adequate rest and treatment. However, the risk of injuring the same area again is quite possible even after complete recovery if precautions are not taken.
Conventionally, the PRICE principle is followed for mild forms of sports injuries like sprains—Protection, Rest, Ice application, Compression and Elevation. Interventional treatments are generally not required in such cases. Physiotherapy, braces, etc. are also used in mild-moderate injuries. However, for more severe injuries, surgical treatment is currently the preferred line of treatment as they may involve multiple structures such as the ligaments, meniscus, cartilage, bone etc. This is to prevent permanent damage and movement restrictions.
Nonetheless, surgical intervention is an invasive procedure and while the existing condition is managed, there can be issues such as infection and long healing time. Sports injuries benefit immensely from cell-based therapies. Autologous mesenchymal cells are capable of self-renewal and differentiation. These cells can be called ‘guardians of inflammation,’ thus any form of swelling and resultant tissue damage that occurs in sports injuries can be treated with these cells. Mesenchymal cells are readily available from different sources in the body such as bone marrow, fat tissue, peripheral blood, teeth etc.
The therapy involves injecting cells and growth factors into affected areas, thus no invasive surgical procedure is done. Stem cells reduce the inflammation, enhance the functions of other cells, and provide a healthy pool of cells for tissue regeneration. Growth factors are like nutrients for cells and play a supportive role in healing. The recovery period is shorter in cell-based therapy and quality of life of the affected individual is not hampered. In addition, we are achieving natural regeneration of tissues, thus the therapy is safe and effective in the long run.
(The author is a Regenerative Medicine Researcher, StemRx Bioscience Solutions Pvt. Ltd, Navi Mumbai. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of the FinancialExpress.com.)