The Most Common Knee Injury

An anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is a major ligament in the knee, connecting the major bones in the leg. The ACL prevents the knee from moving too far forward, providing additional stability. Without the ACL, running, jumping, and pivoting are nearly impossible. ACL injuries are debilitating knee injuries that can lead to chronic pain, instability, and reduced function. Most ACL tears happen in the sports arena, with awkward falls, collisions, and twisting of the knee as the major risk factors. After a significant ACL injury, surgery via ACL reconstruction is almost always recommended. However, doctors and patients alike have been exploring the possibility of regenerative medicine for ligament tears.

Regenerative medicine options

The body is a wonderful, complex organism that has some spectacular self-healing abilities. Regenerative medicine leverages the body’s natural healing tendencies by harnessing these processes. Unlike conventional therapies that mask the symptoms or perform invasive procedures, regenerative medicine seeks to address the root cause of injury. By transferring growth factors, stem cells, or other regenerative materials, the strategy stimulates tissue repair, reduces inflammation, and can even regrow certain tissues.

Types of regenerative medicine

There are several forms of regenerative medicine. Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) is one of the more common forms of regenerative medicine. This technique separates platelets from a blood sample using a centrifuge machine. The platelets are combined with plasma and injected into the damaged area. The additional platelets stimulate healing and recovery. Bone marrow aspirate concentrate (BMAC) is another great option that uses stem cells from the individual’s hip. There are other forms of stem cell therapies but these applications are the most common and effective.

Surgery and stem cells

The current protocol for ACL tears involves ACL reconstruction via swapping the damaged ligament with a new tendon graft. From there, the individual requires extensive rehabilitation lasting 9-12 months. Studies have shown that ligaments have self-healing abilities. In ACL tears, regenerative medicine may promote the healing of injured ligaments and restore knee stability. For instance, a partial tear that would have benefited from ACL reconstruction has another option. Regenerative medicine using mesenchymal stem cells (MSC), for example, can help restore the damaged ligament naturally. At the same time, PRP can reduce inflammation while the ACL heals. So far, there have been compelling studies and research that support this innovation.

The future of ACL treatment

Studies show that regenerative medicine has several advantages. The natural healing abilities of the body can repair tissue while reducing inflammation. This means the ligament becomes stronger and can have a potentially faster recovery. Additionally, regenerative medicine can be tailored to the severity of the injury. While some patients will opt for surgery in the event of a complete tear, regenerative medicine will go side by side with surgery in the future. As the research in regenerative medicine continues to progress, the technique will become widely available and an alternative to surgery.

Consider regenerative medicine for your ACL

Regenerative medicine has the potential to promote healing rather than quell inflammation. The process can help with many joint injuries if used correctly and over several sessions. ACL tears come in varying degrees, with many cases resulting in complex reconstructive surgery. Yet, as tissue has self-healing capabilities, so does the ACL. While challenging with a complete tear, partial tears can opt for regenerative techniques like PRP and BMAC. This option may help athletes feel confident in regaining pre-injury athleticism without limitations.