On the cutting edge | VailDaily.com

On the cutting edge

Dr. Scott Brandt
ThriveMD Vail

It's good to be a Broncos fan right now. Denver is atop the NFL standings, and Peyton Manning stands alone as the most impressive quarterback in the league.

It's hard to believe that just four years ago his career was over. Almost every commentator or journalist who could string together a sentence had written him off.

It began in 2006 when Manning took a hit that wrenched his neck. Despite the injury, he continued to play in pain for the next three years.

By the beginning of the 2010 season, the injured disc in his neck (from 2006) began to cause nerve damage and create intense pain. After that season, Manning underwent two surgeries to keep the disc from doing more damage. The pain continued.

But stem-cell treatments aren’t just for the rich and famous. They can also help weekend warriors, casual competitors, second-home owners, injured ski bums and retirees.

A third attempt was made to fix the problem. This time, surgeons fused together two vertebrae in his neck. The surgery was a success, but there was lingering pain.

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Stem-cell treatment

In 2011, Manning traveled to Germany for a cutting-edge stem cell treatment. The result was what some called miraculous, and at 37 (ancient by NFL standards), Manning looks like an MVP.

The procedure is simple. Stem cells can be extracted from either bone marrow or fat cells. Both contain a type of highly versatile cell called "mesenchymal stem cells." These cells can morph into structural cells such as fat, muscle, bone and tendons. They can also help regenerate or repair cartilage, ligaments, muscle and soft tissue. Once the stem cells are separated out in a centrifuge, they are re-injected into the injury/pain site. They work in a few ways to fix damage.

For instance, stem cells neutralize inflammation causing white blood cells, slow production of enzymes that cause pain and accelerate healing. They also regenerate injured tissue, tendons and ligaments.

Perhaps most importantly, when injected into a damaged joint, stem cells appear to transform into "chondrocytes" which go on to produce fresh cartilage.

Often times, healing from an injury is slow because joints, tendons and ligaments don't have interlaced blood vessels to quickly deliver healing cells. While a body has all the tools needed to heal injuries … sometimes it can't get those tools (stem cells) to the work site (damaged joints, tendons, ligaments).

The choice of pro athletes

Stem-cell procedures help the body to repair itself. That's why a veritable who's who of professional athletes have tried the breakthrough medical procedure (Kobe Bryant, Bartolo Colon, John Daly, Jarvis Green, Amar'e Stoudemire, Darren Sharper and Tracy McGrady — just to name a few).

So why are high profile athletes flocking to stem cell treatments like kids to an ice cream truck? Simple, they're getting results. Take Bartolo Colon as an example.

In 2005, he was one of the hottest pitchers in baseball. Then, he was plagued with injuries and things went downhill. By 2010, he was out of the majors. In 2011, he traveled to Florida for a stem-cell treatment.

Two years later — in 2013 — Colon seems to be defying logic. At age 40 he is having arguably his best season ever. His stats are as good as they've been since his Cy Young year in 2005.

There are dozens of stories like this from the NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, PGA, MLS … and there will be more as time goes on.

But stem-cell treatments aren't just for the rich and famous. They can also help weekend warriors, casual competitors, second-home owners, injured ski bums and retirees. Find out more at a local clinic and see if the procedure is right for you.

Scott Brandt is a Vail physician and Vail Daily columnist. To contact Brandt or to learn more about ThriveMD, call 970-766-8245 or visit http://www.thrivemdvail.com.

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