In the world of sports, an injury can have devastating effects. Notwithstanding some of the life-alternating health consequences and even death that some sports related injuries cause, acute accidents and overuse can signal the end of a career (for professional athletes) or the end of exercising for personal enjoyment (for the rest of us). And that’s not all; the associated ramifications of a sports injury can span weeks, months and even years, leaving patients in pain and vulnerable to further physical and mental decline. As a result, many physicians, physical therapists and trainers have started turning to regenerative medicines and other alternative treatment options to help their patients and athletes possibly heal better and faster; one such treatment option is called orthobiologics. Here’s what you need to know:
What are Orthobiologics?
Orthobiologics are biological substances found in the body that can be harvested and used to promote the healing of musculoskeletal damage. Common biological materials used in orthobiologics include platelet-rich plasma (PRP), stem cells, biological matrix and growth factors.
How Do Orthobiologics Work?
Healing is a complex process that requires blood to supply oxygen and nutrients to the wound; an extracellular matrix containing important growth factors/proteins to stimulate and manage cell regeneration, as well as provide support for new tissue growth: and, of course, healthy cells to repair or replace the damaged ones. With an orthobiologic treatment, one or more of these components is harvested from a body and used to create an aspirate which is then injected into the wound with the intent of improving the healing of damaged cartilage, muscles, ligaments, tendons, joints, bones and/or connective tissue
When Can Orthobiologics Be Used?
Orthobiologics are currently being used to treat a variety of injuries. For instance, using mesenchymal and hematopoietic stem cells for back pain is a common way orthobiologics are being used since they have the potential to repair damage from disc degeneration and herniation. Another example includes using platelet-rich plasma to treat pain due to inflammation following an acute injury to a joint or to repair injuries to a muscle, ligament or tendon; PRPs contain high levels of growth factors and other proteins that are particularly conducive to decreasing inflammation, stimulating immune responses and activating cellular rejuvenation, repair and growth. Another orthobiologic therapy is a bone graft using conductive material (i.e., the matrix), stem cells and growth factors to generate new bone to fill in the space left empty as a result of a particularly bad bone break. In this instance, all three components help provide the optimal environment for the stabilization needed for bone regeneration. In some cases, orthobiologics can be genetically engineered to potentially provide even more therapeutic benefit!