Jun 1, 2017Hold Off
With the rise in competitive youth and adolescent sports, more and more young athletes are looking to get back quickly following injury. Some even turn to cell-based regenerative therapies for healing. However, due to the limited data available on the long-term safety and efficacy of these treatments, a group of researchers cautioned against their use in these populations.
“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,” lead researcher Thomas Best, MD, PhD, Professor of Orthopedics, Family Medicine, Biomedical Engineering, and Kinesiology and Team Physician for University of Miami, as well as the Miami Marlins, said in a University of Miami news release. “Everyone wants a young athletes 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.”
Published in the American College of Sports Medicine’s Current Sports Medicine Reports, the study includes a seven-point call to action for looking into the effects of cell-based treatments. According to the news release, the points are as follows:
1. Exercise caution in treating youth with cell-based therapies as research continues.
2. Improve regulatory oversight of these emerging therapies.
3. Expand governmental and private research funding.
4. Create a system of patient registries to gather treatment and outcomes data.
5. Develop a multiyear policy and outreach agenda to increase public awareness.
6. Build a multidisciplinary consortium to gather data and promote systematic regulation.
7. Develop and pursue a clear collective impact agenda to address the “hype” surrounding regenerative medicine.
“The growing prevalence of adolescent sports injuries and the desires of parents and families for new cellular therapies suggest that treating physicians use the standard principles of care when considering whether to support or discourage parents from seeking risky or noneffective interventions,” the study’s authors wrote. “Treating physicians must be aware of undue influence and possible coercion by the family or health care team in an effort to see an athletic child return to competitive play.”
A potential danger with cell-based therapies is the prevalence of unregulated treatment. For example, the study reports that there are more than 500 unregulated cell therapy clinics in the United States.
“Unregulated clinics may sound attractive to parents and youngsters seeking aggressive regenerative therapy,” said Dr. Best in the news release. “But far more scientific research is necessary to determine if those treatments are helpful in overcoming sports injuries and, more importantly, without serious short- or long-term side effects.”
Another challenge surrounding regenerative treatment is that physicians may not know about potential harm for youth athletes. One reason for this is because many prior studies have focused solely on adults.
“Regenerative medicine therapies potentially offer a very potent way of assisting in the treatment of a variety of sports-related injuries given their regenerative and immunoregulatory potential,” the study’s authors wrote. “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.”