Are Athletes Offered Regenerative Medicine?

Many athletes have experienced sports injuries every day but are not being appropriately informed of all the options available to them. It’s fair to say there are many surgeries performed each day in the United States that can be avoided with regenerative treatments such as PRP (Platelet Rich Plasma), BMC (Bone Marrow Concentrate stem cells), and Fibrin, and FDA-approved substance utilized for off-label use in the Discseel® Procedure, developed by Kevin Pauza MD.

When patients visit our office, they are presented with all of their options, however the same does not hold true when the same patients visit other spine and orthopedic surgeons. Patients are often given their options by their primary surgeon, but fail to mention regenerative procedures that are backed by solid data. This brings up the possibility that the surgeon’s group does not allow regenerative procedures. The reason they might not offer it is that it interrupts their revenue since financial reimbursements are much higher with surgery.

University of Tennessee’s Senior football defensive backs Baylen Buchanan was recently headlined in the news for being unable to practice for the upcoming fall season of football. In 31 career games for the Vols, Buchanan has totaled 73 tackles, three tackles for loss, five passes defended, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery. He’s made 13 starts in his 31 appearances.

However, Buchanan was largely inactive during spring practices earlier this year, and he’s been held out of activities this fall camp for the Vols as well. Recently, head coach Jeremy Pruitt revealed why. “Baylen had a couple of issues during the off-season. We discovered he has a kind of narrowing of the spine, so for his safety and precaution, we’re holding him out,”

Pruitt continued, “One thing you got to figure out is, is this something that he’s had the whole time he’s played or is this something that kind of has just happened right now?” Pruitt added. “But to be precautionary, we’ve held him out, and we’re going to continue to do that because his safety is our first priority.”

According to Mayo Clinic, the narrowing of the spine is known as “spinal stenosis.” It’s most commonly caused by “wear-and-tear changes in the spine related to osteoarthritis,” but other factors can lead to the narrowing of the spine such as overgrowth of bone, herniated disks, and thickened ligaments.

If Buchanan does have some form of “spinal stenosis” it could be a serious threat to his season. The 5-foot-11, 196-pound defensive back started all 12 games for the Vols at one of the outside corner positions in 2019.

Now, however, Buchanan’s status is completely up in the air for this upcoming season and for the remainder of his career.

While facts remain unknown as to how Buchanan came to know he has a “narrowing of the spine”, it’s possible he was having pain/symptoms that lead to the discovery. This brings to mind how often an athlete’s careers end early due to sports-related injuries. These injuries oftentimes lead them to surgery that could be avoided if given regenerative treatment options. There is an appropriate time and place for patients to have orthopedic and spine surgery, but they should be aware of regenerative treatment options as well.

Our hope for athletes that may suffer from low back symptoms and/or sciatica is that they are given all of their options in the regenerative medicine field and not just traditional outdated ones that may impact their ability to ever play a sport again.

Kevin Pauza, MD is a spine specialist with offices located in Tyler, Texas, NYC, and Naples, Florida. He specializes in treating low back-, sciatica- and neck pain. He also specializes in ortho-biologics, treating patients of all ages with shoulder, hip and knee pain.

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