A leading sports medicine researcher has called for caution when considering treating sports injuries in young patients with regenerative medicine.
A nationally renowned sports medicine clinician and researcher has spoken out against utilizing stem cells, platelet rich plasma or other forms of regenerative medicine to treat sports injuries in young patients. Younger athletes are vulnerable to a range of injuries relating to overuse, such as damage to the shoulder, ligaments or tendons.
“While regenerative medicine appears to have promise in many areas of medicine, little is known about the safety or effectiveness of these treatments for bone, cartilage, ligament or muscle tissue injuries in children and adolescents,” explained Thomas Best, University of Miami Miller School of Medicine and UHealth Sports Medicine Institute (FL, USA).
“Everyone wants a young athlete to get back to sports as quickly as possible, but it is important to look first at treatments that have been shown to be effective before considering unproven options.”
The recommendations were made in a recent study, titled Not Missing the Future: A Call to Action for Investigating the Role of Regenerative Medicine Therapies in Pediatric/Adolescent Sports Injuries and published in the American College of Sports Medicine’s Current Sports Medicine Reports, led by Best.
In the study, the authors continued: “Evidence from laboratory and veterinary research suggests that mesenchymal stem cells may provide an alternative treatment option for conditions that affect muscle, tendons, ligaments and cartilage. This evidence, however, is based largely on studies in adults and it remains unknown whether these results will be duplicated in our younger populations.”
The study authors, which also included researchers from Colorado State University (CO, USA), Baylor College of Medicine (TX, USA) and Isar Klinikum (Munich, Germany), concluded that a seven-point call to action was required to understand the current evidence, risks and rewards, and suggest the optimal future direction of research and clinical practice for regenerative medicine therapies in youth sports. The seven points were:
- Exercise caution in treating youth with cell-based therapies as research continues.
- Improve regulatory oversight of these emerging therapies.
- Expand governmental and private research funding.
- Create a system of patient registries to gather treatment and outcomes data.
- Develop a multiyear policy and outreach agenda to increase public awareness.
- Build a multidisciplinary consortium to gather data and promote systematic regulation.
- Develop and pursue a clear collective impact agenda to address the “hype” surrounding regenerative medicine.
Reflecting on the evidence, the study’s authors concluded that “despite the media attention and perceived benefits of these therapies, there are still limited data as to efficacy and long-term safety. The involvement of clinicians, scientists and ethicists is essential in our quest for the truth.”
Such sentiments are relevant not just to the application of regenerative medicine to treat young patients; without strong and reliable efficacy and safety data coupled with appropriate and supportive regulation, regenerative medicine therapies will not live up to their promise of transforming healthcare.