Football season is starting up once again, and over a million high school boys will participate in this highly popular American sport, as parents and fans cheer on their teams to victory. The power and agility of these athletes has increased through the generations, leading to greater feats of skill and athleticism. Unfortunately, injuries to these talented athletes have also become more common, especially injuries involving the knee, which has become the most common reason that football players lose time through the season or possibly end their competitive sporting careers.
Most of these injuries involve the ligaments that support and strengthen the knee joint, including the Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL), the Medial Collateral Ligament (MCL), the Posterior Cruciate Ligament (PCL) and the Lateral Collateral Ligament (LCL). Most ligament injuries involve a partial tearing of the fibers that form each ligament, and the resultant laxity often results in persistent instability of the joint and increased risk for future additional, cumulative injury. The internal structures of the knee such as the cartilage, medial meniscus and lateral meniscus become vulnerable and can develop tears over time, or in the case of a severe high-energy impact, at the same time as the ligamentous tears.
All of these tissues are made of collagen, the most abundant protein in the body and the primary building block for the great majority of our connective tissues. Healthy strong collagen fibers form the basis for joint stability and also for the tough connecting tendons that attach our muscles to our bones providing powerful movement. Generally, the more durable your collagen fibers, the longer your joints will last without developing chronic pain and arthritis.
Many injured athletes are offered surgery after they damage these structures, and in cases of complete ligamentous tearing, reconstructive surgery may be needed. Often, steroid injections are offered, but studies have shown that steroid injections will weaken the cartilage and connective tissues, worsening the damage in the long term. However, most athletes and their parents are not aware that there are non-surgical methods to repair these injured ligament and meniscus tears, restoring healthy collagen, rebuilding fibrous tissue, stimulating healing of the torn meniscus defects and regrowth of cartilage. Studies have shown healing of meniscus tears, thickening and strengthening of ligamentous tissue including ACL weakness, and markedly improved pain and function after a series of injections using an injection technique called “Prolotherapy” or “Regenerative Injection Therapy”.
Prolotherapy involves injecting growth factors, such as Platelet-Rich Plasma (PRP) which is derived from a simple blood-draw process, as well as other natural substances that promote growth factor release into the knee joint and the structures that support the knee. Most college and professional athletes are well aware of these techniques now and are avoiding steroid injections and surgery, as surgery often results in the end of their sports career.
Prolotherapy is repeated monthly for 3-6 visits until the vast majority of the weak, painful tissue is regenerated and strengthened back to normal or even better than normal. When the joint capsule and ligaments are healthy and durable, the cartilage and menisci are protected and the degenerative cascade is slowed or reversed, helping to avoid future arthritis and joint replacement surgery. Surgery often requires 6 months to a year of recovery time, while Prolotherapy typically produces only moderate soreness for several days, with no restrictions in activity. With the risks, cost, and down time of Prolotherapy being significantly less than surgery, it is an excellent non-surgical option for the young athlete and their not so young parents with knee pain.
Learn more about Prolotherapy, Platelet-Rich Plasma, and Stem Cell treatments at www.charmaustin.com.