Musculoskeletal Care of the Mature Athlete 

Originally Published: December 4, 2012

By Chris Jones | ESPN The Magazine

This story appears in ESPN The Magazine’s Dec. 10 Interview issue.

“DR. JAMES ANDREWS is watching the weekend’s football highlights, and nearly every one features a patient of his, a man whose career has been saved by his hands. He’s rattling off the names in his Southern drawl as they appear on his screen, the grand sum of their repaired parts: Drew Brees, Alex Smith, Matthew Stafford … “There’s Manning. I’ve seen him too.” Which Manning? “Both of ’em,” Andrews says.”

“He calls one injury in particular “the nemesis.” It cripples football players especially, dooming them to pain and early retirement. When the articular cartilage in their battered knees wears away, when Andrews hears that telltale grind of bone on bone, he knows the fight is over. “We can patch it, but we can’t fix it,” he says, and he sounds almost wistful, the way a cop might admire a really good thief.”

“For the past three years, however, Andrews has been experimenting with a new strategy. “Stem cells,” he says. “What we call biologics. He won’t name names, but Andrews has mostly employed stem cells in the deteriorated knees of football players, and virtually all of them have reported significant decreases in pain and inflammation. “It’s early,” he says”

“It’s easier to believe in miracles, of course, when you see them throwing perfect spirals on your TV, Brees and Smith and Stafford, each one a bridge between a past that couldn’t be saved and a future that always could be.”

Suddenly, I am not an isolated orthopedic surgeon attempting to take on the orthopedic surgical specialty but a member of a growing Regenerative Medicine movement among orthopedic leaders. Yes, I’ve actually been around the orthopedic world and “you’d think I’d be happy but I am not” (or at least I hadn’t been). “Everybody knows my name but it’s just a crazy game” as an orthopedic surgeon seeking to assist patients avoid orthopedic surgical procedures with stem cells from bone marrow.

Randy Newman said it best  Oh, it’s lonely at the top – ♪   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qlmGJQq3AlM  ♫♪

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