In the past couple months, many people have heard about stem cell treatments being used to try to avoid major joint surgery. Much of these news came from the baseball world, where the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (LAA) allowed doctors to perform a stem cell treatment instead of “Tommy John” surgery on two pitchers.
In the case of these baseball players, Tommy John surgery (named after the first pitcher to get the procedure, more formally known as an ulna collateral ligament or UCL procedure) can save a career, but it takes over a year for the pitcher to return to the game in most cases. The new procedure uses stem cells from bone marrow (not embryonic stem cells), and they may be able to regrow the damaged tissue instead of needing a replacement. Unfortunately, for one of the two pitchers, it did not work, so they had to do the Tommy John procedure after all. Continue reading