Stem Cells to Replace Surgery for ACL Tears:

Ryan Mulcahy | | Industry NewsIndustry News

this video shows a man you received stem cells after an ACL tear and went mountain biking the next day…

In the past 6 months or so I have heard allot about the newly emerging method for ACL repairs that involves no traditional orthopedic surgery and thus makes for a faster and easier recovery as well as a stronger more durable repair.

I think we'd all like to avoid this...
I think we’d all like to avoid this…

Being that I am a 70 day plus a year skier, hockey player, mountain biker, skateboarder etc, I have seen and heard of various injuries among my friends and thus witnessed their recovery and in most cases return to the sport they love. Additionally as the Ski Channel article reports based on a study there are about 25,000 ACL injuries per year in the sport of skiing reported each year in the US. So with this newly developed method of surgery for ACL repairs as well as for other type ligament injury repairs cutting down the recovery time and making for a stronger long term repair, it sparked my interest.

ACL tear
ACL tear

This somewhat new method is a popular topic in northern Utah because of the large presence of skiing and other outdoor activity.  Additionally as the article brings to light, and uses as a platform of evidence to further the idea, professional free skier and DPS skis founder Stephan Drake recently underwent this developmental surgery and has had amazing results that he would not have had with traditionalorthopedic repair. Having the surgery last July and back on skis this winter would be un-heard of with traditional orthopedic methods.

Drake back at it this season after undergoing Regenexx surgery last July.
Drake back at it this season after undergoing Regenexx surgery last July.

This surgery is done by Denver based company Regenexx and according to information on their website and testimonial videos the  cost around $8000 and is only covered by some insurance plans, but not all.

In this video at the top of this post, the man claims amazing long term results and even says he went mountain biking the day after the procedure. Furthermore he was able skin and ski in the backcountry with his son, which before the surgery would have been impossible with his knee.

ACL location
ACL location

I wanted to take it a step further and gain some more information. In this I wanted to gather info from medical professionals as well as people who understand the passion and sport of skiing. So I contacted two friends of mine who are seniors at the Michigan State medical school and who are both currently severing residencies at hospitals and participating in such surgeries daily almost. In addition to being great doctors they are both die hard skiers and hockey players. Furthermore Aaron is a veteran ski patroller at northern Michigan’s Crystal Mountain and therefore has a very real insight to injuries from a doctor’s perspective as well as a skier and ski patrolman. Matt had ACL surgery last year and returned to skiing and hockey this past season with almost if not complete strength and stability in his repaired knee.


Lindsey Vonn's famous ACL surgery last year.  This is her leg post surgery.
Lindsey Vonn’s famous ACL surgery last year. This is her leg post surgery.  It’d be nice to avoid all these cuts, huh?

Aaron feels that:

“The problem I foresee with this technique is that the ACL and knee ligaments don’t have blood flow so even if you put stem cells there, there I wouldn’t think there would be a lot of supportive tissue and structure from which the stem cells could pull nutrients and sustain life long enough to replicate and remodel the damaged ligament”

With some research into the subject and exploration of studies that were conducted he expressed that:

“as of 2012 they(the researchers) wanted more research to be done in vivo on large mammals to truly gauge the efficacy of the treatments with growth factors and stem cells.”

Aaron and his fiancé showing off their re-certification for the National Ski Patrol
Aaron and his fiancé showing off their re-certification for the National Ski Patrol

Matt had a similar approach and said that:

“It is a new technique on the horizon, and that as more research comes forward, it could possibly replace or augment ACL surgery in the future, but as of right it’s inconclusive”

one of the ways Dr.s replace an ACL.
one of the ways Dr.s replace an ACL.

Furthermore to put things into reality Matt reminded us that:

“Also, ACL injury is a risk any time you go skiing. The fact that a lot of re-tears happen is due to the fact that skiing puts a ton of torque on your knee.”


Finally Matt concludes by stating:

“It’s fun and nice to talk about medicine anecdotally, but until science backs up the claims it will never be a mainstream technique”


So as of right now this developmental surgery provides lots of hope in near future for skiers and other athletes but from a medical standpoint requires some more research.



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